"A man has no religion who has not
slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it, and one's religion
is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification. So I
contend that true Socialism is religion; that honest, fervent politics are religion; that
whatever a man will labour for earnestly and in some measure unselfishly is religion"
Anti-Masons often try to "prove" that Freemasonry is a religion - and then, on that basis, condemn it as being a 'false religion'. Masons know full well that Freemasonry is no more a religion than is golf, Scouting, or the U. S. Navy League. The arguments raised, though, may leave those unfamiliar with Masonry questioning.
Here are the facts:
When one examines the commonalities and differences in religions, there is a short list of traits all share but which are unique to none thereby achieving a WORKING model of what religion is. It is important to remember that this involves RELIGION not SPIRITUALITY, which for the most part, is a trait of being human.
It can reasonably be argued that all of these are true of Masonry. Similarly, however, they are also true of organizations like Scouting, Campfire, Alcoholics Anonymous and The U. S. Navy League - to name but a few.
So on the basis of this non-partisan, sociological model, Freemasonry more than fits and for these reasons, some could find it hard to see why Masonry is, in fact, NOT a religion.
However, when we look at what religion does, there is an entirely different picture.
Religions do the following (though details vary from one to the next):
Freemasonry does NONE of these things - but religions DO!
Sometimes a Mason will - for whatever reason - find his religious affiliation unsatisfying. In these times, it is particularly easy to find a substitute. For some, it may be golf, bowling, computers, or other activity. It may be politics or the constant involvement in public affairs. For some though, it could become Freemasonry wherein the member has an opportunity to reflect on the great works of the Creator and which encourages his thoughtful circumspection. Small wonder, then, that there are those Freemasons whose attachment to the Fraternity is somewhat akin to that normally found in an attachment to a set of religious beliefs. This human activity, though, in no way makes Freemasonry itself something it is not - a religion!
Nothing that anti-Masons can say or write to the contrary and no behavior by a handful of individual Masons will change that simple fact!
Some have written saying that the things outlined above are not true and that Masons DO, in fact, do things we say they do not! Let's examine them one by one:
Practice sacerdotal functions - Masonry does NOT!
Freemasonry has certain 'rituals' when lodges are opened, closed, or receive new members. These in no way imitate religious ceremonies except insofar as they are serious and solemn times, free of laughter and frivolity. Perhaps our detractors think the only time one should be serious is in Church?
Teach Theology - Masonry does NOT!
Anti-Masons will argue that Freemasonry has it's own Bible (untrue!) and that lessons are read from it. They ignore (or don't even realize) that a single Biblical verse is incorporated into each of the three degrees. These are generally not read but given by memory from the officer who is designated as the Lodge Chaplain. This does NOT occur at each and every meeting: it ONLY occurs when degrees are being conferred - something which may happen from as much as 60-70% of the time on down to once a year or less. It is NOT done at each meeting! Further, though, having a Biblical verse to underscore a particular lesson, does not 'teach' theology - and, in fact, it's always the same three verses each and every time, year after year. Pretty limited teaching, huh?
Some detractors apparently feel, though, that even such limited 'teaching' should be limited to their 'preacher' (who might not have any training in matters of divinity at all). These are often the folks who then themselves will 'explain' what the Bible 'really means'.... <SIGH>
Simply put, the Bible contains many beautiful and meaningful lessons. Is there some reason that it should not be shared with everyone?
Ordain Clergy - Masonry does NOT!
Critics have argued that the Master of the Lodge is a substitute for clergy within the Masonic Lodge. While we stand open for correction, we do not believe that any religious group elects their clergy by popular ballot from amongst their midst and limits their term of office to a single year.* Such a claim is ludicrous at best and any Mason who has served their lodge as Master knows full well that the power of office is truly temporal.
<Masonicinfo Note: An Australian correspondent advises us that the Christadelphians do this but perhaps for a 3-4 year term. Information we've been able to locate on that religion is a bit inconclusive and one website describes the elders as being "appointed". Regardless, we should 'Never say Never', eh? And we also suspect that the Christadelphians don't have progressive leadership offices through which one must pass before becoming a Lodge Master!>
Define sin and salvation - Masonry does NOT!
Critics argue that certain Masonic ritual (not universal but found in many jurisdictions) refers in an incorrect way to the "Great White Throne". Masons are encouraged to live clean and moral lives that when the end of their days on earth are done, they may join their Father 'who is in Heaven'. Anti-Masons wish to make much of this yet we wonder: would they prefer that any organizations not related to their own be telling their members to live immoral and evil lives simply because they see themselves as the only true interpreters of God's word?
Perform sacraments - Masonry does NOT!
Rituals today have little significance for most people. They have never seen anything as solemn as the ordination of a Priest, may have created their own wedding ceremony with little or no regard for prior conventions and, in general, be totally unfamiliar with things such as protocol, pomp and circumstance. It may well be that one of the reasons so many Americans travel to Britain each year to witness the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, were so fascinated by the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, or become so absorbed at things like the solemn and serious process involved in guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Ceremony is due to their lack of exposure to 'ritual'. However, because something is performed in a 'ritualistic' (i.e., repeated identically each time it is done) does not mean that it is a 'sacrament' NOR does it mean that it is in any way attempting to imitate a church function. If this were so, the military should stop teaching recruits how to march!
Publish or specify a Holy Book - Masonry does NOT!
In fact, Masons are encouraged to follow the tenets and beliefs of their own religion. The Bible which is on the altar of every Masonic lodge is representative of the Holy Books of all faiths. Further, Masons take their obligations on the Holy Book of their choosing with some deciding to do so using the Bible as the Holy representative of their particular belief.
Despite the constant claims of anti-Masons, Albert Pike's book - "Morals and Dogma" - is NOT a guide of ANY kind for Freemasonry. It was written 150 years ago (150 years after Masonry in its present form came into being) and was the work of a single person who wanted to express HIS views. For several decades it was given as a gift to the men who joined the Southern United States jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Were it not for anti-Masons and the internet, it would be virtually unknown today.
Describe or define the Deity - Masonry does NOT!
Masonic detractors claim that the God of Freemasonry is GAOTU. These initials are simply an acronym for "Grand Architect of the Universe" (sometimes in the past referred to in the more ancient term of Grand Artificer). Again, because Freemasonry specifies no particular religious belief but encourages its members to follow the beliefs of their own religion, prayers in lodge may refer to the Grand Architect of the Universe. Members are free to mentally insert the name they wish in its stead. Certain religious extremists argue that any prayer not offered in the name of Jesus is somehow invalid, ignoring the fact that then Jesus' own prayers would have been so. We do not discuss individual's religious beliefs on this site but merely point out that if a Mason believes that every prayer should be addressed to Jesus, Mary, Allah, or in some other way as represented by his religion, he is free to do so. The Grand Architect of the Universe is God and to claim that Masons somehow worship someone or something else is obfuscation at best and a heinous lie at worst.
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