Margaret Knight

(November 23, 1903 – May 10, 1983)

Margaret Kennedy Knight was a psychologist, broadcaster and humanist.

Born in Hertfordshire, England, Knight went to Girton College, Cambridge University. In her third year there she found the “moral courage”, as she put it, to finally abandon the religious beliefs she had long been uneasy with.


Between 1926 and 1936 Knight worked as a librarian, information officer and editor for journal published by the National Institute of Industrial Psychology. She married her husband Arthur Rex Knight in 1936, then in 1938 she started working alongside him as an assistant lecturer in psychology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Ten years later in 1948 she was promoted to lecturer in psychology, a post she held till her retirement in 1970.

Morals without Religion

In January 1955 Knight stunned post-war Britain by suggesting in two talks on the BBC’s Home Service (now Radio 4), that moral education should be uncoupled from religious education.

These two talks were published in Morals without Religion and other essays in 1955 by Dennis Dobson, which also contains an entertaining chapter on contemporary reaction to the talks, some of it hostile, much of it appreciative. Margaret Knight quotes from several letters, including one from Germany that she found particularly moving:

…Please accept the gratitude from an unknown man who has seen in your talk the sunrising of a new epoch based on the simple reflection; to do the good because it is good and not because you have to expect to be recompensed after your death. Being myself a victim of Nazi oppression I think that we all have to teach our children the supreme ethics based on facts and not on legends in the deepest interest for the future generations…

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