Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Yes, Freemasonry Is Religion, And Is Incompatible With Some Christian Beliefs. Here’s Why.
I’ve been a Freemason for only about four years, but I’ve already done a lot of changing in my views. One view I used to have, which I think most first years have is that Freemasonry and Christianity are totally compatible.
Oh the many internet arguments we enter, arguing “no, we don’t have a problem with Catholics, but the Catholic Church has a problem with us,” and “Evangelical Christianity is perfectly compatible with Freemasonry.” These kind of skirmishes happen all the time. And then there’s the biggest trope in all of Masondom: Freemasonry is not a religion.
This is all, of course, entirely from our point of view. We are an open, welcoming, tolerant fraternity, and we search for the connections that bind each other together, and not the dividers that keep us apart. Tolerance is a cornerstone of freemasonry, so it’s naturally abhorrent to us to be dragged into any argument that certain sects should be excluded. And I think this is entirely true, but that is from my point of view; the point of view of a guy who thinks he’s totally right.
In all fairness, though, whether freemasonry is compatible with certain religions isn’t only up to us. Many practitioners of those religions make great points. I’ve even got some favorites.
Freemasonry distracts you from God, taking time away from your family, and your worship, and that is Satan’s work.
There are certainly men who have utterly lost themselves in Freemasonry, and it hurts their families. One only knows what it does to the man’s personal relationship with his creator. But then the same thing is easily said about any activity. People lose themselves in hobbies when they seek distractions. I’ve even seen people lose themselves in their church; so focused on the inner workings, the politics, jazzing up the service, being on the lighting committee, etc, and they eventually wonder where God went in all is this. This is not a problem with freemasonry. It’s a problem with people, and one freemasonry actually attempts to remedy in its earliest instruction to new brethren. We come right out and say: divide your time correctly, keeping time for God, family, work, etc. And that freemasonry never comes first. Ever.
The things you do in lodge are things you should be doing in church.
Well, woulda, coulda, shoulda. And feel free to, if you like. Nothing says you can’t flip hotcakes for your lodge on Saturday and waffles for your church on Sunday. And nothing says you can’t focus on being a better man in lodge and in church. A little double coverage never hurt anyone.
The teachings don’t contradict, and should you find a contradiction, masonry insists you side with the obligations to God, family, and to yourself before you ever consider your lodge.
Masons seek light, but the Bible tells us that Jesus is the light and the way.
Right, but in freemasonry, spoiler alert, the light is the Volume of Sacred Law, which, if you’re a Christian, is the Bible. It will be sitting there, open, on the altar. And I’m personally not a Christian, but I’m pretty sure Jesus is in there. Somewhere in the back, I believe.
Now, that’s all well and good, but these are not things I can dictate. If you, as a Christian, or are of some other faith, and you don’t find these explanations convincing, that just fine. I would say that you are in the minority of your faith, but that you have a point of view, and you have legitimate practical concerns about freemasonry. Compatibility is, I suppose, a matter of educated opinion. I would not say your faith is incompatible with freemasonry.
There are some views that are completely incompatible with freemasonry. I will let the Christians argue among themselves whether these views are legitimately Christian, but there is some grist we just won’t grind.
If you have a problem with the tolerance off freemasonry, then there’s a legitimate problem here. I got into a discussion recently with a Christian whose argument against freemasonry was that his religion taught him he was not to pray with those who practice idolatry, but run from them. In a nutshell, because masons come from all different faiths, but will pray together in lodge, a good Christian can’t be a part of that.
This never happens.
Now I’ve heard probably the most common Christian argument against Freemasonry, mainly given by Catholics; there is one true way to Heaven and that is by accepting Jesus; Masonry essentially teaches that your goodness can get you to Heaven; ergo Masonry is incompatible with Christianity. I could answer that by saying that Masonry doesn’t propose any particular way to get anywhere, and that even if that were the case, one needn’t accept such a premise to join or participate in a lodge. But this prayer thing is something that I’ve never, ever run into before.
I asked this gentleman if he would apply the same standard to a non-denominational public prayer, like at a graduation commencement or some kind of national moment of prayer after a disaster. He would. And…my brain just broke a bit. I realized, not for the first time in my life, that some people–perfectly nice people–are just completely different. And not just in a “same goals but different paths” way. Just. Completely. Different.
Obviously there are only a relative minority of Christians with this notion. But I do, basically, get the idea. I see how the thought can be derived from scripture. It’s a Christian belief, though not a widely held one. And it’s not a belief I’d assign only to Christians. Many faiths have an extremely orthodox element that is utterly intolerant of certain ideas. For instance, the idea that regardless of what gets you into Heaven, and your religion may have very specific requirements, God still wants you to be a good, peaceful, generous person. That’s the kind of wild idea that some religious practitioners reject out of hand.
I really don’t think you can be a freemason and not think that.
If you believe you should run from people practicing different faiths, rather than stand with them as you each pray to Deity for peace and harmony, then no, I really don’t think that is compatible with freemasonry.
Worse yet, I don’t think that’s compatible with the American Way, because much like the masons, America is founded on the idea of tolerance, and from many–one. If this is a closely-held belief you espouse, then you have to admit to yourself that America, in its very founding principles, is doing it wrong.
Religion is a lot of things to a lot of people, and I’m not going to define it for you, but it’s certainly easy to see why so many non-freemasons see it as a religion. There is an awful lot of crossover, here. Masonry doesn’t tell you what god to pray to, it doesn’t teach you how to get to Heaven, but it does teach you that being a good, honest, just person is morally and spiritually valuable, and it does teach you how to be that. And that altar in the middle of the lodge room floor is the Altar of God. And I’m hardly the only mason who has said this. There’s a beautiful passage in a Masonic play, A Rose Upon the Altar.
Freemasonry, my brother, is, truly, not a religion. But it is religion–religion in its truest, purest sense. We don’t worship a God here–we worship the Great Architect. We have His word for it–inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it to me. At this Altar…good men and true worship their Creator. At this Altar the sore distressed find comfort. Around this Altar glows the Shekinah, the heavenly light from Him to whom it is erected, for those who have eyes to see. The Divine Presence is here! This Altar is as much a holy of holies as a church. If you want comfort, kneel here and ask for it. If you want aid, here you shall find it. Here is the Book in which the promise is made…come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…This Altar is God’s.
And there it is. I mean, argue if you want. You don’t have to agree. You may even be right. I’m sure I’ll get flack from masons and Christians alike. A Masonic lodge is no substitute for your church or house of worship, and I’d never claim it is. But neither is in, nor any of these, an adequate substitute for the world God has made, or the people he put in it, and religion exists everywhere among us. And it can be practiced everywhere.
And yes, some religious practices just don’t mix.
I wish more young Masons would put their thoughts on paper. It is vital to us all, especially Freemasons, to know the thoughts and contemplations of those who will follow us.
In today’s article Brother Gallagher seems a bit torn between Masonry as a religion and Masonry as not a religion. That is totally understandable given the history of the Craft and the practice of Freemasonry since the formation of this great nation.
Freemasonry’s biggest problem is that it is so tolerant that it will allow Brothers to remake and transform the Fraternity into the mores and customs of their particular region. That’s how you end up with the Grand Master of Florida expelling two Brothers for not being Christians.
Dr. Fels in the video is equally confused as he tries to walk a tightrope whereby everybody is right and nobody is wrong.
So let us start by looking back at the formation of modern speculative Freemasonry.
Anderson wrote in his Book of Constitutions in 1723:
A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understand the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves, that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatsoever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished.
The key phrase here is “that religion in which all men agree.” What Anderson is saying here is that Freemasonry agrees with and accepts the tenets that all religions have in common. So it is the tenets that all religions have in common that Freemasonry adopts but not the specific paths of practicing them. This is what Dr. Fels misses.
- No specific Holy Book
- No sacraments
- No ordained clergy
- No definition of Deity
- No dogma, no creed – that is no ideological doctrine
- No means to salvation
The problem enters as to the question of Freemasonry as a religion because there are many religious people in Freemasonry. The Lodge offers prayers but so does my book club, my household at mealtime and Congress before it convenes. Prayer does not make a group a church. Neither does scriptural lessons.
And because Freemasonry accepts the basic tenets of all religions that does not make us some sort of new super amalgamated religion.
If we look at the most widely accepted definition of Freemasonry we can see where we are going wrong.
Masonry is said to be,
a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
The key words here are, SYSTEM OF MORALITY. Freemasonry is a system of morality and when it says that it borrows the religion in which all men agree it is saying that it accepts the same morality that is found over and over again in most religions.
Your religion deals with your relationship with God. Freemasonry deals with your relationship with your fellow human beings.
It is more than coincidental that those who declare that Freemasonry is a religion are those who are not Freemasons. They say they know more about the Craft than those of us who practice Freemasonry.
Once you remove the argument that Freemasonry is a religion and convince those that are criticizing it from a religious viewpoint that it is merely a society then you remove all possibility of a religious objection to it. If Freemasonry is not a religion than it cannot be criticized as one. And that stops the bitter resentment and ridiculous attacks on the Craft. Well not quite. You still have to prove that Freemasonry does not want to take over the world.
Truth be known, Freemasonry makes no ruling about religion. FREEMASONRY MAKES NO RULING ABOUT RELIGION. It’s not for any sectarian religions and it is not against any sectarian religions. FREEMASONRY IS NEUTRAL. It makes no religious rulings nor declares any means to salvation. FREEMASONRY IS NEUTRAL. It is a society of friends devoted to the Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God.
As one site put it:
Freemasonry is kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in one’s work; compassion for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; concern for good government; support for public education; and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man.
Does that sound like a religion?