Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 3 entries for this date: Margaret Knight , Marie Bashkirtseff and Jennifer Hecht
Margaret Knight

Margaret Knight

On this date in 1903, British freethinker Margaret Knight, nee Margaret Horsey, was born in Hertfordshire, England, earning her Bachelor's degree at Girton, Cambridge, in 1926 and her Master's in 1948. "I had been uneasy about religion throughout my adolescence, but I had not had the moral courage to throw off my beliefs until my third year in Cambridge," Margaret wrote in the preface to Morals Without Religion. After reading philosophers such as Bertrand Russell: "A fresh, cleansing wind swept through the stuffy room that contained the relics of my religious beliefs. I let them go with a profound sense of relief, and ever since I have lived happily without them." She worked prior to her marriage to Arthur Knight, a professor of psychology, in 1936, then moved with him to Aberdeen, Scotland, and lectured at the University of Aberdeen from 1936-1970. She and her husband co-wrote several textbooks. She became a celebrity across Great Britain when she achieved the freethought coup of giving a series of freethought lectures on the BBC radio. "It is difficult . . . for the ordinary man to cast off orthodox beliefs, for he is seldom allowed to hear the other side. . . . Whereas the Christian view is pressed on him day in and day out." Margaret first submitted a draft script in 1953, after several years of negotiation. The BBC finally suggested that as a psychologist, she broaden her approach to include "positive advice to nonChristian parents on the moral training of children." Her aim: "to combat the view that there can be no true morality without supernatural sanctions." The fireworks began after her first talk, on Jan. 5, 1955, was written up in newspapers, including one headline in the Sunday Graphic with two-inch letters describing her as "The Unholy Mrs. Knight" and describing her as "a menace." The BBC lectures appeared in her 1955 book, Morals Without Religion. In 1975, she updated her views on religion in a pamphlet, "Christianity: The Debit Account." After studying the bible and religious history, she wrote that she had become even more critical of Christianity. She compiled a humanist anthology in 1961, revised in 1995 by James Herrick. D. 1983.

“Ethical teaching is weakened if it is tied up with dogmas that will not bear examination.”

—-Margaret Knight, Morals Without Religion, 1955. Also see Women Without Superstition

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Marie Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff

On this date in 1860, Russian artist Marie Bashkirtseff was born in the Ukraine to a wealthy noble family. She grew up in France and Italy, and studied painting in Paris. Although a number of her paintings were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, she is still well-known for two canvasses: "The Meeting," depicting Parisian slum children, and "In the Studio," depicting fellow artists at work. From the age of 13, she kept a journal, which included her correspondence with writer Guy De Maupassant. Still in print, the journal was first published in 1891, and was called I Am the Most Interesting Book of All. Her later journal entries, originally published in Revue des Revues, in February and September, 1900, reveal her skepticism. She was an ardent feminist, who wrote for Hubertine Auclert's newspaper, La Citoyenne. She died of tuberculosis at age 23. D. 1884.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Hecht

Jennifer Hecht

On this date in 1965, Jennifer Michael Hecht was born in New York, N.Y. She earned a B.A. in history from Adelphi University in New York in 1987, and a Ph.D. in the history of science and European cultural history in 1995 from Columbia University. She is an author and poet whose works of poetry include The Next Ancient World (2001), for which she was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2002 Norma Farber First Book Award. Hecht is most famous for her historical and philosophical books: Doubt: A History (2003); The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France (2003), which won the 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society; and The Happiness Myth (2007). She has worked as a professor in history at Mannes College (1993–1994) an associate professor in history at Nassau Community College (1994–2006), and taught creative writing at New York University in 2006. She is currently a professor at Columbia University’s MFA program and The New School’s graduate writing program, as well as a journalist who writes book reviews for The New York Times and the Washington Post. She and her husband, John, have two children.

“I’m sort of what I’ll now call a Reagan atheist—came in real early. I was still a pretty young person,” Hecht said during her speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention. In her book Doubt: A History (2003), Hecht outlines the extensive history of atheism and religious doubt. She wrote: “Doubters have been remarkably productive, for the obvious reason that they have a tendency toward investigation and, also, are often drawn to invest their own days with meaning.” Hecht is a member of FFRF’s Honorary Board and received a Freethought Heroine Award from FFRF on Nov. 7, 2009.

“Almost all the great poets have conversations in their poetry about doubting God, and even go all the way to dismissing. It’s such a strong tradition that it’s almost amazing that we’ve missed it.”

—Jennifer Hecht, Nov. 7, 2009 speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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