Margaret K. Knight

On this date in 1903, psychologist Margaret Kennedy Knight, née 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,” she wrote in the 1955 preface to Morals Without Religion. “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 married Arthur Knight, a professor of psychology, in 1936, then moved with him to Aberdeen, Scotland, and lectured at the University of Aberdeen from 1936-70. She and her husband co-wrote several textbooks. She became a celebrity across Great Britain when she achieved the coup of promoting freethought on BBC Radio. Seeking to uncouple moral education from religion, Knight had submitted a draft script in 1953 after long negotiations. The BBC finally agreed that as a psychologist, she could broaden her approach to include “positive advice to non-Christian parents on the moral training of children.”

The fireworks started after her first talk in January 1955 was written up in newspapers, including the Sunday Graphic story headlined “The Unholy Mrs. Knight” describing her as “a menace.” The BBC lectures appeared in her 1955 book Morals Without Religion. In 1961 she edited Humanist Anthology From Confucius to Bertrand Russell (revised in 1995 by James Herrick) and updated her views on religion in the 1975 pamphlet “Christianity: The Debit Account.” (D. 1983)

Freedom From Religion Foundation