The concept of a sacred place can be a tough one for an atheist to grasp but it makes sense to me when Joseph Campbell explains it like this:
I try to find a sacred place every day but only succeed two or three times a week. When I am there, I am glad that I am because of the special thing I find there. It is a thing that I have found in love, in drugs, and in the moment of creative inspiration. It is a feeling of being simultaneously calm and excited.
The calm is not simple relaxation, it is the sense that nothing – not even death – can harm me. And the excitement is concentrated and useful, not erratic and frantic like most forms of excitement. Even after the moment passes, the positive feeling lingers and can re-appear at the oddest times.
Like yesterday. I was walking to work when something unexpected happened: I realized was happy. I could feel myself smiling under my mask and realized it was for the simple reason that I was walking down a sunny Manhattan sidewalk on a beautiful morning in July. You never know when or where you will find your bliss. Or when it will find you.