Wednesday, March 3, 2021

50 Years Ago: Atheism on the Air (2005)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard  

It would appear that in over 30 years of its existence the B.B.C. has never once permitted anybody to voice an opinion in favour of Atheism in any shape or form, until one evening in January when Mrs. Margaret Knight (lecturer in Psychology at Aberdeen University), was permitted to state in her broadcast on “Morality without Religion” that we should tell our children that we no longer believed in God although some people still do. She compared God with Santa Claus and referred to the Christian myths as useless for moral instruction. In her opinion if we taught children these biblical myths, when they grew up and learnt that they were at variance with the facts, they would be easy bait for Communism. The problem of evil was one point which she dealt with by declaring that an infinitely wise and all powerful God would not create evil. “If God cannot prevent evil then he is not all powerful, and if he will not, then he is not all Good.” The answer that many Christians give is that evil is man-made and nothing to do with God, or that its existence proves that man has departed from God. But here she said that there are a lot of evil things among the animals for which mankind certainly is not responsible. “The cat,” she said, “takes delight in playing with a mouse and inflicting torture on it until the mouse dies after a long drawn out and painful death.” The rest of the talk was about what she called “scientific humanism” and the education of children without the traditional religious beliefs.

The next day the Press was shocked and upset. The News Chronicle's leading article was headed “Atheism on the Air” in which it declared “Should she have been allowed to put and press her points without a balancing exposition of Christian beliefs? That is where we think the B.B.C. went wrong .” (14/1/55.)

Why this wonderful tolerant idea of a balancing exposition? Has not the B.B.C. been broadcasting religious beliefs for 30 years every day and often several times a day on all programmes and by thousands of exponents? Have they not a committee that on religious broadcasts see that we are all well soaked in traditional religious ideology?

Letters to the Press poured in by the thousand; such an hysterical outburst of injured religious pride has not been seen for a long time. 
(From an article by H. Jarvis, Socialist Standard, March, 1955)

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