Late in his life, the philosopher Richard Rorty — a well-known atheist — was asked by an interviewer if he could define holy. Perhaps the interlocutor thought the aging and dying Rorty would be stumped by the question or would fall into some traditional language of reverence. But Rorty was not stumped by the question. He responded, “Holy: the hope that someday my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.”
For a Humanist, holy doesn’t have to do with particular places, words, or books — or even particular ideas, which must always be under interrogation. Holy is a place where and when the basics of human flourishing are realized. Among these basics are the inherent worth and dignity of every person; a world community that stops the battling between clans, tribes, and nations; and respect for the planet and its creatures.