The term, secular saint, which has no strict definition, generally refers to someone venerated and respected for contributions to a noble cause, but not recognized as a canonical saint by a religion. The ranks of secular saints, like those of religious ones, are often filled by martyrs.
George Orwell began his Reflections on Gandhi: "Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent…" Orwell concluded his essay with an attack on the idea of sainthood but praise for Gandhi: "One may feel, as I do, a sort of aesthetic distaste for Gandhi, one may reject the claims of sainthood made on his behalf (he never made any such claim himself, by the way), one may also reject sainthood as an ideal and therefore feel that Gandhi's basic aims were anti-human and reactionary: but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!"
- "Reflections on Gandhi". Partisan Review, Volume XVI, No. 1, January 1949 p 85 - 92.