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 rf.org/shop/books/details.php?cat=fbooks&ID=FB8

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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