Freemasonry is one of the most misunderstood institutions on the planet. It is not a religion, charity, political action committee or cult. It is simply the original fraternity whereby members congregate to enjoy friendship, morality and brotherly love. Despite this, people are suspicious about their motives and have accused the Masons of everything from starting World War I to the Kennedy assassination. No, they are not trying to secretly commandeer government. Heck, they have trouble organizing a picnic, let alone the world. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret, but before I do, you should understand in order to join the Masons you must possess a belief in Deity (in a Supreme Being). Because of this, no atheist or agnostic can join the Masons. I have personally sat in Lodge with members representing every religious denomination imaginable, all enjoying peace and tranquility. Now for the secret: discussion about religion and politics is forbidden in a Masonic lodge. This is done in order to maintain the harmony of the Lodge.
It’s interesting to see what a little tolerance can do. Instead of squabbling over theological or ideological differences, Masons sit as brothers looking for ways to cooperate and understand each other. I’ve discovered a little tolerance can go a long way. It’s a pleasure to know men who are my political and religious opposites. You gain invaluable insight as to their interests and perspectives on life. We learn from each other. It’s actually quite refreshing to speak on the level without fear of retribution. The fraternity proves it is indeed possible to have civil and respectful discourse, but certain rules of decorum have to be observed.
Outside of the Lodge, there are no rules or decorum. In the real world of today, it has become commonplace to make scurrilous claims designed to attack the integrity of another. It wasn’t always like this though. Although we understood differences existed between ourselves, there wasn’t a public venue to comment. Thanks to the advent of easy-to-use social media, where a wide variety of disparate personalities and interests meet and pass public communiques, decorum and cordiality have been replaced with venom and hostility. People will say things in such venues they would never dare say face-to-face. Such discourse is changing our society and makes for heated arguments. Nobody is immune from this, including yours truly who has been duped into reacting upon having his nose tweaked. Even those of us who do not use social media are affected as they will undoubtedly encounter a person influenced by such technology.
Thanks to electronic communications, where we observe the thoughts of others, we have sharpened our personal sense of social and ideological right and wrong, thereby accelerating the rift between us. One side sees our country as half-empty, and the other half-full. To illustrate:
Liberals pound on conservative doctrine, and vice versa.
Atheists ridicule people over their religious beliefs.
Politicians spin lies and deceit against their opponents. Negative advertising is now the norm, not positive.
Gays argue with straights over lifestyle.
Our divisiveness is now in full bloom for all the world to see. Our common sense of right and wrong is cloudy at best and we no can longer agree what kind of country the United States should represent. Not surprising, one side or the other will not not be happy, which is why I worry about the fallout from the November elections. It is impossible to elude.
We have gone from respectful discourse to a society intolerant of the other person’s point-of-view, thanks in large part to technology. It’s too bad we cannot all sit in Lodge together and speak on the level.
Keep the Faith!
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Georgia Masons had the opportunity in their 2009 Grand Session to come out firmly and clearly on the record against anti discriminatory practices. These resolutions were proposed to be added to the Masonic code after the persecution of Gate City Lodge #2 and were proposed by many different Brothers in the hopes that a situation of this kind would never happen again, it being emphatically addressed in the Masonic code of the Grand Lodge.
So if these words were used to charge a Brother, the Grand Lodge code must have an article in it that prohibits the raising of a Black Man. Even if the Grand Master or a committee or by vote of the Grand Lodge removed this provision it was still very disconcerting to many Georgia Masons that it was used to charge a Brother with. So those so concerned wished to make doubly sure that a statute of this nature buried in the fine print of Grand Lodge code would never be used again to persecute a Georgia Mason.
I have picked four of these proposed additions to the Georgia Grand Lodge Constitution to give you an idea of what these Brothers were aiming at.
No. 7 DENYING OR ADVOCATING DENIAL OF PETITION FOR IMPERMISSIBLE REASONS.
“Racism and racial discrimination being antithetical to the principles of Freemasonry it is unmasonic conduct for any Mason to exclude, reject or deny or to solicit, advocate or encourage any other Mason to exclude, reject or deny the petition of any otherwise qualified applicant for the degrees of Freemasonry on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.”
No. 8 RACE, ETHNICITY, SOCIAL CLASS, NATIONAL ORIGIN OR RELIGIOUS PERSUASION
“Any man, otherwise qualified, is eligible as an applicant for the degree of Freemasonry without regard to race, ethnicity, social class, national origin or religious persuasion.”
N0 15 ADVOCATING DENIAL OF PETITION FOR IMPERMISSIBLE REASONS
“It is gross un-Masonic conduct for a Mason to advocate the denial of, or to encourage any other Mason to deny the petition of an applicant for the mysteries of Freemasonry because the applicant is of a particular social class, ethncity, nationality, race or religion.”
No. 16 REQUIRING OR ENCOURAGING IMPERMISSIBLE PLEDGES OR OATHS
“It is gross un-Masonic conduct for a Mason to require or to encourage any other Mason to pledge or swear not to elect, initiate, pass, or raise a candidate for the mysteries of Freemasonry because the candidate is of a particular social class, ethnicity, nationality, race or religion.”
Presented with the opportunity to put the race question behind them the Grand Lodge in Grand Session VOTED DOWN ALL THESE RESOLUTIONS OVERWHELMINGLY!
Some Masons have said that these resolutions are superfluous and not needed. The Grand Lodge already has such provisions in its code. Well, it also had a statute against the raising of a non white. What is the harm in these additions? What’s wrong with being a little superfluous in the name of justice? Maybe the current code is not clear. Perhaps it is a bit ambiguous. Maybe these additions would close any loopholes. Why not err in the name of justice for all?
Have you not heard of couples later in their marriage renewing their marriage vows? Have you not heard of Christians renewing their baptismal vows? Let’s not make excuses to deny, let us have reasons to permit.
The voting down of these resolutions in Grand Session points to the Grand Master who supposedly healed the Gate City Lodge No. 2 mess. Any Grand Master in Grand Session holds an enormous influence over the voting body. It would be hard to believe that if the Grand Master was solidly and emphatically behind these additions to the Georgia Masonic code that they would have been defeated. And even if… Not by an overwhelming rejection.
It leads one to believe that the Grand Lodge of Georgia yielded to outside pressure and public opinion in 2009, only to come back strong again to reassert itself as anti Black African American.
Are you, Brethren willing to accept Georgia’s decision without protest?
Through Freemasonry, however, I have had opportunity to break bread with good men of other than my own Christian faith. Freemasonry does not promote any one religious creed. All Masons believe in the Deity without reservation. However, Masonry makes no demands as to how a member thinks of the Great Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry is, for all its members, a supplement to good living which has enhanced the lives of millions who have entered its doors. Though it is not a religion, as such, it supplements faith in God the Creator. It is supporting of morality and virtue.
Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in thought and action. As a result, men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. I think that a good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by his membership in the Lodge.” – The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
I remember the horror in the eyes of my Irish Catholic in-laws when they discovered I had become a Mason.
According to them, the Masons were responsible for all of the union problems over the years and were not to be trusted. I also remember the shocked expression on the face of the rector of my Episcopal Church when he found me participating in a Masonic funeral service at the church. Fortunately, he was a little more understanding and asked me about the fraternity. Up until then, he had been suffering under the misconception that Masons were anti-Christian. Obviously, these are not isolated incidents, overcoming misconceptions is something Masons have grown accustomed to over the years. I guess it goes with the territory. Even in our degree work we are charged not to get into arguments with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule us. I have to question the validity of this charge in today’s world. True, Masons like to maintain a low profile, but make no mistake about it, the fraternity is still under attack by religious institutions, which hurts us by clouding the minds of the public and affects our membership.
Let me say unequivocally from the outset that Freemasonry is not a threat to religion. Instead, it is probably one of the strongest proponents of organized religion. To become a Mason, a person must believe in a supreme being; an atheist is ineligible to join the fraternity. This criteria is not done to contest the candidate’s beliefs as it is to act as a litmus test of the moral fiber of the person. I have personally seen men of many different faiths initiated into the fraternity; Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Following this, talk of religion (and politics) is barred from discussion in a Masonic Lodge so that it doesn’t cause any contention and discontent between members. True, we offer a nonsectarian prayer to open and close a Lodge, but this is essentially no different than what military chaplains offer in the field and offends no particular faith.
If you were to ask what religion Freemasonry adheres to, you might as well ask what political party we support (e.g., Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent, etc.). Frankly, such talk is inconsequential as it is simply not discussed. This is a key reason why Masons enjoy harmony in the Lodge. We may not agree with each other’s religious beliefs but we respect the individual’s right to practice his own faith. This is called “religious tolerance,” something more people should practice. Opponents to Freemasonry believe the fraternity should be used as a bully-pulpit to preach the gospel of a particular religious denomination and try to convert people to their point of view. Hogwash. This is not what we are about. This is a fraternity; a Brotherhood that promotes fellowship, morality, charity, integrity, citizenship, honor, and brotherly love. The ultimate aim of Freemasonry is world peace and harmony, not world domination as some critics argue.
Another gross misconception of the fraternity in the middle East is that Freemasonry originated from Judaism. This misunderstanding is the primary reason why the offices of the Grand Lodge of Turkey was bombed a couple of years ago. Again, this is self-inflicted ignorance as preached by religious extremists/terrorists in the middle East. If you go into any Masonic Lodge you will find a “Volume of Sacred Law” on the Lodge’s alter to represent divine guidance. In those Lodges where the membership is primarily Christian, you will find the Holy Bible; in a Jewish Lodge you will find the Torah, and; in the Lodges in Turkey, I will guarantee you will find a Koran (I’ll bet the terrorists did not know this). As an aside, when Masons are initiated, the candidate’s holy book of choice is used in the ceremony.
Over the years, various religions have cast a suspicious eye on Freemasonry; Southern Baptists in the United States, the Anglican Church in England and Australia, the Presbyterian Church in Africa, and, of course, the Catholic Church. The division between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry is an old one dating back in history. Frankly, the reasons for the division gets cloudier with the passing of each year but widened recently with the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Following the new Pope’s installation, the following item appeared in the Catholic News Service:
Found among the list of the principal public documents and decisions issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was prefect of the office was the following item:
NOV 26, 1983: “Declaration on Masonic Associations,” saying Masonic principles and rituals “embody a naturalistic” religion incompatible with Christianity. Those who knowingly embrace the principles or attend the rituals are involved in serious sin and may not receive Communion.
Following the 9/11 disaster, the Grand Lodge of New York invited New York Governor George E. Pataki to become a Mason in recognition of his work responding to the disaster. Initially, Pataki was pleased to accept the offer and even posed for a photo with New York’s Grand Master which was published on the cover of the “Empire State Mason” (New York’s magazine). However, after the Catholic’s declaration was brought to his attention (Pataki is a Catholic), he respectfully declined to join the fraternity.
The declaration has also led to problems in the Philippines where the local Bishop asked Catholics who are members of Freemasonry (and appendant bodies such as the Eastern Star) to stay out of the church:
“We would like to inform our Freemason brothers and sisters that you are no longer allowed to enter the church because your group contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church.” – Bishop Alo in a pastoral message read during masses
Fr. Medardo Salomia, spiritual director of the Diocese of Mati, said Bishop Alo and majority of the priests in the province have also agreed not to give Holy Communion to Catholics who are members of Freemasonry.
“The reason given why they are being barred from taking the Holy Communion was that they are being anti-Christ,” Father Salomia said.
Do not look for Pope Benedict to change his mind regarding Freemasonry any time soon as the subject of secret societies is a pet project of his; see related stories at: Reference 1Reference 2
These recent events have been unsettling to Catholic Freemasons:
“Is it any wonder they call him the ‘German Shepherd’? It is this incredible arrogance of the church that has caused me to stop having anything to do with the Catholic Church. This is just another example of how they believe that they are the end all, and be all, of everything to do with the GAOTU. The epitome of arrogance.” – a Mason from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
“My background is fourteen years of Catholic private schooling, alter boy, etc. Theology (four years) taught by French monks that came in the US as brothers vs. priest. We became French Catholic Theology students, so to speak, didn’t know there was a difference until later in life.
The teachings were pretty much the same as what I see in Masonry, treat each other with value and respect, the basic 10 commandments theme, with the difference being the church addition of specific scripture, a typical focus and part of religious beliefs, this is what makes a religion a religion. Masonry being non-religious, no scripture to believe in, cannot be a religion. I know it is hard to understand this when there is a Bible on an altar, prayer is given and things have names like catechism etc., should fall outside the above statement because it does not fit the incompatibility test. How can it be incompatible when it is pointedly non-religious?
Masonry probably does itself a disservice by using the old terms and symbols that scare people looking for something to be scared of. I have spent plenty of time out in the field, doing crazy things to evaluate our military strength, sometimes I was asked, “Did you see any snakes?” My answer is always the same, “I wasn’t looking for any.” They might be there, I’m sure some exist, but I didn’t have or let any of them hinder my mission. I’m convinced that if you go into the field looking for “snakes” you will indeed find them.
We were taught that each person, not just an ordained priest, has a special relationship with the trinity and no one can judge it but the two concerned. The fear of religious leaders is that they might lose followers, when they should be concerned with saving souls and doing good work. If they look to history, as we did, they will be enlightened as to the mistakes that are repeated continuously throughout history.
I have not seen the basis of the sin that is referenced here, like it is easy to see, killing an innocent person is wrong. Taking another’s wife or goods is wrong. Brotherhood and passing on an old mouth-to-ear order of words being a sin needs more explaining. I think the author is misinformed and has not done the research and homework needed to make a clear accurate proclamation. Too gray an area, there is only mortal and venial as far as I know. Keep in mind the background, with all due respect, of the human person involved, Germany is very tender about any other than mainstream groups because of the Hitler event and their lack of action against such atrocities. Look how they went crazy over the Scientologists in Germany.
I support my church, but it is my church, a church between me and my trinity as taught in theology at Trinity High School in the 1960’s. Remember in the 60’s it was a sin to be friends with a person of another faith. They would lead you to sin. You lead you to sin, not others.
Others may need the road map to heaven, we were given it as were others of other religions. We studied the old and new testament, everything brought into context of the time it was written, a year on each. We studied every religion known to man at the time and considered the differences of the teaching and beliefs.
I could go on forever, but, I know I’m okay because I do not embrace Masonry as a naturalistic religion replacing my Catholic upbringing and I know plenty of other Catholics that are of the same mind.
We all hope for the “lessons learned” part of the middle east to surface and hope religious leaders of all faiths, get over the “I’m the right one” and see the error of that way. Unite for peace thru understanding, temperance and defensive posture, it is the only future we can have or give our loved ones. What we see today is the other choice.
Man is what messes up religion. History proves it.” – a Past Master from Dunedin, Florida, USA
Wanting to understand the separation of Religion and Masonry, I established some Internet polls through the various Masonic Discussion Groups I participate in throughout the world.
The question was rather simple:
“If your place of worship (church/temple/mosque) said you must either abandon Freemasonry or the church, what would you do?”
3 (02%) – I would abandon Freemasonry 119 (93%) – I would abandon my place of worship and find another 6 (05%) – I would abandon my faith altogether
The results were to be expected. The overwhelming majority did not see any incompatibility between religion and the fraternity, but instead of causing a problem, they opted to move to another church where they could practice their faith.
Only a few others felt it necessary to choose sides. Here is a Brother who described why he would abandon Freemasonry:
Well, I guess I am a stand out in this poll. Being a newer member of a lodge I can say without a doubt, I would abandon Freemasonry. I was told from the very beginning that Masonry should never interfere with your service to your family, your usual occupation or your service to God. I belong to my church because I believe and have faith in my pastor. He has the vision of God (through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible) and does His work within and outside of our church. If I had no faith in this I could not remain an active member there. Please don’t think I belong to a cult or follow some nut job out there, our church is full of free thinking men and women who will let their opinion be known. Our pastor will listen to and consider all free thinking ideas, but when the final decision is made, it is made according to God’s word (Holy Bible) and not our pastor’s word. That is the reason I would abandon Freemasonry if it came down to a choice. I am very glad that choice will never have to be made. I spoke to my pastor before joining Masonry and although he is not a member of a lodge we have several members who are. My only problem is that there are several Brothers who attend my church who are Prince Hall Masons. In Tennessee our Grand Lodge does not recognize PH Masons. We treat each other as brothers anyway without holding any Masonic communication. But that is another discussion all together. Thank you for your time to hear me out. – a Mason from Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Another Brother felt entirely different:
“What has the Church done for me lately? First to criticize. Very dictatorial. Masonry promotes tolerance and mutual understanding.
If the choice was mandated by my Church, we would cease our association with each other. For I believe the terrible atrocities committed in those centuries past were by the Church that did not allow its parishioners the right to think for themselves.
As Freemasons this is our most treasured gift and ability. To be able to think for ourselves and to teach others of like minds to do the same for themselves is who and what we are. This is a major reason our way of life has existed for so many centuries! For if we cannot practice charity to or for whomever we wish, if we cannot have fellowship with whomever we wish or if we cannot hold a belief in whatever Supreme Being that we wish, what will our satisfaction be in belonging to a Church that refuses us these simple important pleasures?
I for one, like you too, believe in the life hereafter, and when push would come to shove, my relationship with my God is not hinged on belonging to a particular church! My faith in Him is contained in my heart, the same place my love for our ancient fraternity will live until the day that I die.” – Past District Deputy Grand Master, Havre, Montana
As I see it, this division between religion and Freemasonry is primarily our own doing. True, the ceremonies of the fraternity are well maintained secrets and, as far as I’m concerned, it is nobody’s business but our own. After all, Masons have no intention in meddling in the workings of our places of worship, why should others meddle in ours? Aside from this, we have done a horrible job of communicating to the public about our stance on religion.
One of the best ways to overcome misconceptions with the public is to develop a one-on-one relationship with members of the clergy. Let me give you an example; I know of a Past Master living in Clearwater, Florida who considers himself a well-read Catholic and actively supports both his Church and Lodge. He invited his priest over to his house for dinner where they talked for hours about Freemasonry and cleared up a lot of the priest’s misconceptions about the fraternity. I also know of another Brother who retired and taught Sunday School at his Baptist Church. Initially, his pastor was very suspicious when he discovered the Brother was a Mason. But over time he found the Brother to be an honest and honorable man, and an active supporter of the church. When the Brother passed away, the pastor not only wept, he openly welcomed the Masons into the church to perform a Masonic funeral service.
Knowing there is no discrepancy between practicing one’s faith and Freemasonry, I invite all members of the clergy to contact a local lodge to discuss the fraternity and to find ways to work together. Better yet, I encourage all Masonic Lodges to establish a program to meet with the local clergy and discuss the fraternity. One-on-one meetings can overcome a lot of problems. Maintaining a total cloak of secrecy over the fraternity does nothing but cast a cloud of suspicion over our motives. We must take a pro-active approach to communications as opposed to reactive. Failure to do so leads to rumors and inuendos which only creates barriers.
Do we really have anything to hide? Not really. After all, are we the ‘Good Guys’ or the ‘Bad Guys’? We’re the ‘Good Guys’ who help the needy and try to make the world a better place by practicing charity, citizenship, patriotism, honesty and integrity. Let’s continue to leave religion to those institutions charged with practicing it.
To summarize Freemasonry’s stance on religion:
Yes, men of many faiths are Masons.
No, Freemasonry does not advocate a specific religion.
Yes, many Masons have been (and still are) members of the clergy.
No, Masons do not worship Lucifer.
Yes, Masons are regular church-goers.
No, Freemasonry is not a religion.
Yes, Masonic Lodges have been used by many religious faiths to hold service (Lodges also make their facilities available for boy/girl scouts, civic and governmental organizations, and other non-profit organizations).
Anyone who thinks otherwise probably has a hidden agenda.
So, to those religious orders reading this article, what will it be: allies or adversaries? Since Freemasonry respects religious institutions and encourages its members to attend the places of worship of their choice, why can’t religion accept Freemasonry?
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
Article reprinted with permission of the author and www.FreemasonInformation.com
Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.
“We contemplate eternity beneath the vast indifference of heaven.” -Warren Zevon
My favorite songwriter of all time is the late Warren Zevon.
Warren was incredibly adept at vocalizing the reality of his emotions through the medium of music. One of his works that has become a favorite of mine is his song “Indifference of Heaven.” To me, the song tackles an issue that most humans are afraid of addressing: does God really play an active role in the human existence?
Most people that I have met refuse to even consider this question and with good reason. The idea of an almighty being that doesn’t influence world events or care about our day-to-day existence is unnerving. We naturally want to believe that God is on “our side,” that God wants what is best for us, and that God will protect us. The desire to be one of God’s chosen people has been instilled in us through many different religions. It is a perfectly natural desire and it seems like a logical assumption. If God cared enough to create us, then he would care enough to make sure that everything turns out well for us, right?
One spiritual ideology that separates itself from this belief is Deism. Deism is a belief that came out of the Enlightenment Age of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the belief that the Supreme Architect of the Universe created the universe and all things therein contained, but is not involved in man’s existence. It rejects the idea of divine miracles, revelations, or prophets. However, Deists do believe that all of the universe’s natural processes were put in place by the Almighty Creator and that God does desire for us to act morally.
Deism doesn’t necessarily declare that God is indifferent, but depending on one’s view of this theological ideal Deism could imply that indifference is one of God’s characteristics. Frankly, I think that the idea of an indifferent God can be comforting at times. Consider an event like the Holocaust. It is much more difficult to understand how a God that interferes with human actions would allow such a tragedy to occur. What about those times when a crime is committed and the victim is an innocent law-abiding and God-fearing citizen? How can we accept that a proactive Deity allows these things to happen? Yet, we find ways to rationalize God’s inaction and decide that tragedies are all part of God’s plan.
Maybe there is another way of looking at the vast indifference of heaven. Maybe we don’t have to accept that God is indifferent or that he does direct the course of human action and allows bad things to happen for a reason. Like many people, I like to think of God as a father figure. A good father knows that he cannot run the lives of his children, because if he doesn’t allow them to realize the consequences of their own actions they may become dependent on his guidance and will suffer in the long run because they are not capable of making responsible decisions. He may well know that his child intends on going to a party on the weekend which may result in his child making a wrong decision. So he raises his child by giving them a good example of proper conduct and trusts that they will make the correct decision when it is necessary. Perhaps God works in the same way. He has given us his guidance through various religious texts and trusts that we act in an upright manner, but he also realizes that we must suffer the consequences of our own mistakes.
The truth is that while we exist in this world, we may never know the real characteristics of God. He may be interested in our lives, indifferent, or like a loving father, gently guiding us to follow the right path. But one thing that will not change is that we will all–at one time or another–feel like we are “contemplating eternity beneath the vast indifference of heaven.”
Along with my Short Talk Bulletin I recently rescued from my mailbox came with it MIC’s (Masonic Information Center – a part of MSANA) FOCUS, a short communication on whatever is HOT right now in Freemasonry. And what is hot right now, as we all know, is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.
MIC published a letter Dan Brown sent to the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, on his apology for not been able to speak before them. In that letter was a really important gem.
“In the past few weeks, as you might imagine, I have been repeatedly asked what attracted me to the Masons so strongly as to make it a central point of my new book. My reply is always the same. ‘In a world where men do battle over whose definition of God is most accurate, I cannot adequately express the deep respect and admiration I feel toward an organization in which men of differing faiths are able to break bread together in a bond of brotherhood, friendship and camaraderie.”
While this is something all members of the Craft realize, yet its implication for application on a much wider scale is overlooked. Come imagine with me, play fairy tale – what if all or at least an overwhelming number of people in the world were Freemasons? What effect do you think that would have on world peace?
Dictatorships and totalitarian regimes who do not respect the worth of the individual do not like Freemasonry. Radical Muslims and radical Christians and other radical religionists who portray themselves as the only people on earth “to be saved” and who seek to eradicate other faiths and what they see as corruptions of their own faith, do not like Freemasonry either. Closed minds with agendas cannot accept free associations of differing views. The ability to “live and let live” is lost on those who have the one and only true way which becomes their mission to impose on everybody else for the good of the whole.
Learning how to live in peace and harmony – two very coupled Masonic words – has been something I have been writing on for many years as a Mason because it was Freemasonry that taught me the concept and it was Freemasonry that made me realize how it can be done and it was Freemasonry that showed me how important this is for the world.
In 2005 I wrote a long paper which I delivered in Alberta, Canada titled World Peace Through Brotherhood. In that paper I quoted Brother Joseph E.A. Salem of the Israeli Scottish Rite and his words are worth repeating.
“Too many people believe that peace is a diplomatic maneuvering, a series of talks and shuttle trips between countries, or a pile of documents signed in Paris or on the lawn of the White House, in Washington. Real Peace can only come from the hearts of men.”
“The greatest ideal in the world today is fraternity, not as a mere sentiment, but as a science, a practical philosophy and a way of life. If ever there was a generation eager and willing to try out the philosophy of brotherhood with wisdom and patience, it must be this generation. We have been shown in letters of blood and fire, what hate, envy and greed can do.”
“I believe Freemasonry can do a lot towards building a better world, fit to live in, unstained by blood, undefiled by hatred. This is the challenge to our craft.”
“’Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’ This is the Commandment to which Freemasonry dedicated itself, to establish brotherhood among men so they can live in peace with each other in this world.”
“The struggle of Freemasonry is the struggle of the human race against tyranny and oppression. From the beginning, Freemasonry has realized that religion, tradition, and habits of life can divide the peoples of the world into hostile camps. Freemasonry takes no part in these quarrels, rather it provides a common meeting ground where all men can meet on the level.”
“Every Masonic lodge is a temple of peace. In it, men of different religions and stations in life meet together, and on its altars, the Sacred Volumes of all faiths are placed. The spirit of harmony and cooperation prevails. The Masonic teachings of equality and fraternity are the only tie that can bind the human family together, and create a world order based on brotherly love and peace.”
*FREEMASONRY & WORLD PEACE, by Joseph A. Salem.
After I delivered World Peace Through Brotherhood at one Albertan Lodge, the Worshipful Master came up to me and he said. “Do you know what stood out for me out of that hour long lecture you gave?” And he immediately answered his own question with, “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of peace.” EVERY MASONIC LODGE IS A TEMPLE OF PEACE. And that is so true. Just as one might check his weapon at the door, every Mason checks his agenda at the door.
And what Salem imparts to us is that peace starts with the heart not with actions of civil servants. And that is where Freemasonry starts right from the very start. Where is a man first made a Mason? In his heart – and he is raised, reborn into a new way of life, one of respect for others, for love for all humankind, for tolerance of different beliefs, styles and cultures and non judgmentalism leading to peace, harmony and accord. This works very well as long as what is given is also received back. And here is where our dream, our fantasy of what would the world be like if every person was a Mason comes into play.
Lest anyone think that I am just substituting one, one and only true way with Freemasonry as the new one and only true way let me say this. Freemasonry is not the one and only true way. It’s not even the only way. But it is the best way I know of right now at this moment. Religious organizations, houses of worship and secular organizations have a role to play also. But the difference is this. While they seek to impart peace through adherence to a certain dogma, creed or agenda Freemasonry does not. Freemasonry’s dogma, creed and agenda is no dogma, no creed, no agenda except generalities of righteousness and nobleness that have been recognized by every religion, every culture, every free government since time immemorial.
Now talk as I may, and talk as the great writers around me may, none of us will have so many ears listening as will those who listen to Dan Brown. His words that he tells us he repeats over and over again, will have a tremendous effect on those who seek to implement worldwide peace and harmony in our time.
Thank you Dan Brown. We are overjoyed that you understand!
Recently on a local radio NPR station I happened upon a conversation with the Mayor Rex Parris, of Lancaster California. The conversation was about how the city of Lancaster, a sleepy Air Force town in the outskirts of Los Angeles county, is growing a “Christian community.”
In the discussion, Mayor Parris, in a state of the city address, called for Lancaster to grow as a “”Christian community” and asked for voters to support a city ballot measure that would authorize daily Christian prayers at city council meetings. The message was framed in the context of the citizenry (voters) to promote the love of the neighbor, and the basis of the Christian faith. His foundational basis is that with a community 85% Christian, it shouldn’t be to much of a stretch to direct the community towards its natural leaning. Further, he indicated that the city had “lots” of christian churches and only one synagogue. The closest mosque being a town over
The reaction to this has included charges filed by the ACLU and an investigation of Mayor Parris as having committed a hate crime.
This raises some interesting questions about what’s going on in Los Angeles, but it has some interesting synergy with other goings on that have been manifesting across the country. What comes to mind most recently is the new blog that has started publishing under the aegis of the battle between the Antients and the Moderns, (circa 1800’s). In it, the writer has taken several specific positions, but mentioned the idea of a “Cult of the Supreme Being” especially as espoused by Albert Pike.
The rational here is that as America was founded on the principal of religious freedom, it was established on the basis of Christian principal, and its on that principal that the shift from an ambiguous God to a specific interpretation of god is necessary to continue to flourish, in the case of Lancaster, Ca, and to recover the ideology that was lost in Freemasonry, in the case of Versus the Moderns.
Without taking any particular stance on this, so as not to promote a particular direction, is this a fair way in which to steer civic life, or is it time to rein in the laissez faire trade of religion (or its previous freedoms), and focus on the principals of one particular religion, to focus on making ours specifically a Christian society? Or, more close to home, should Freemasonry be governed solely on a Christian principal? If that were to take place, would it alienate its non-christian membership?
Some concerns that I can see in the headlights include the alienation of those of other faiths, especially in communities that they may have very little representation, and then as an extension of that alienation, would pockets of other specific religions begin to spring up and within their own community, establish their religion as the basis of the community? It happens now at the secular level where you have pockets of people of similar mind, but what if you allow them to apply their faith into their civic leadership?
Another instance is something I came across in a Masonic reading circle (really more of an email chain that a brother sends out to a list). In it, he outlined clearly his disapproval at other faiths (in this case Wicca) going so far as to say that it was his belief (as applied from his Christian faith) that a pantheist should not be in the U.S. military. Again, I can understand the personal application of faith, but is it ok to assert ones own faith over another’s simply because the two are dogmatically opposed?
In the secular arena, when did theology step over into guiding democracy? I it fair to say that this simillar to the way politics in Iran is governed, a subservient republic under a theocratic leadership?
Is it a safe idea to move towards a less secular more faith based fundamental, or does the notion of a Cult of the Supreme Being invite others to participate with their religion in tow? Should faith guide us to the exclusion of others?
Throughout my entire life, there has been one Biblical passage that has fascinated me more than any other. It appears early in the first book of the Bible in the first chapter of Genesis.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
The statements contained within this Biblical passage could provide every man with a lifetime of contemplation and could provide topics with which an endless supply of tomes could be created. I have no desire to discuss the last part of the passage which concerns the gender of the Almighty. Instead, I am going to focus on the first part of the passage which states that we (man) were created in His image. In particular, I want to discuss an esoteric and somewhat controversial subject: if we were created in His image, can we become Gods?
The reason that I ask this question is because there was a time that I would have loudly proclaimed “No!” The issue that brought this subject to light for me was gene therapy. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website, “Gene therapy is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development.”1 When I first considered the concept of correcting defective genes, I decided that the practice was nothing more than man “playing God.” The idea frightened me and I was uncomfortable with the subject.
Years later, I began exploring the meaning of the previously mentioned passage from Genesis. While I was struggling with the concept of being created in God’s image, another scientific concept came to my attention. A laboratory in Switzerland has been working on recreating the Big Bang in order to understand how the universe was created.2 It was at this point that I started asking the question: what if we are just understanding how God created the universe?
This inevitably led me to link science with religion. Through science we better understand the universe and all things therein contained. Therefore, we enhance our knowledge of God’s creation and also are empowered with that knowledge to become creators ourselves. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves “If we can recreate the conditions that created the universe, if we can cure and eliminate genetic diseases, and if we can manipulate all of nature to suit our will, have we become more like God?” For me, the answer has shifted from a firm “No!” to a contemplative “Perhaps.”
Yet, while I ponder the connections between science and religion and between man and God, the truth is that these are questions which cannot be answered. There will always be the scientist who says that there is no God. There will always be the religious leader who believes that science is blasphemy. There will always be those that believe that God is an untouchable entity and there will be those that do actually believe that men can become Gods.
Everyone has an opinion. The important thing is that we ask the question.
It sounds like song title, Spirituaql but not Religious… The trending seems to match the PEW results from last year that found a down turn in American Religious trends, but an uptick in general spirituality.
Now, this last Sunday’s Parade magazine published their results asking America, Have you become more Spiritual?
From the publication:
HAS AMERICA BECOME MORE SPIRITUAL?
EXCLUSIVE PARADE MAGAZINE POLL REVEALS AMERICANS’ THOUGHTS ON RELIGION, FAITH, BELIEF IN GOD AND MORE
New York, October 1 — America is generally thought to be among the most religious nations in the Western world. Results from a new PARADE poll on spirituality are revealed in this Sunday’s issue of the magazine. Here are some of the findings:
69% of Americans believe in God; 27% don’t; 7% aren’t sure about the existence of God.
78% of respondents believe in an afterlife; 43% think people go to Heaven or Hell. depending on their actions on earth; 28% believe our souls or spirits live on, and 7% think we will be reincarnated as another life on Earth.
33% said religion is important but not the most important thing. The most religious and least religious respondents balanced each other—24% said religion was the most important thing in their lives and 22% said it wasn’t a factor at all. Another 22% said religion was in their lives but not particularly important.
30% attend a religious service once or more each week; 20% of respondents say they go to services anywhere from once a month to a few times a year; 50% rarely or never attend.
82% would consider marrying someone of a different faith; a nearly equal number (78%) would never think of converting to another religion.
51% of respondents said they pray daily; 67% said they pray because it brings them comfort and hope. 15% of those who pray said they do so because God expects them to. 77% who pray do so outside of religious services.
When praying, 72% ask for the well-being of others, 60% for forgiveness, 27% for personal success, and 21% for money or other material things.
How has the recession affected religion? Just 7% of respondents say they are attending religious services more often, and 10% of respondents say they’ve been going less frequently since the recession began.
Two-thirds of respondents say they’ve never met with mediums or psychics, had a psychic experience, or even watched a psychic or medium on TV. 12% believe in astrology and check their horoscopes regularly. The rest don’t believe in astrology at all or read horoscopes purely for fun.
83% have had no experiences with the spirit of anyone who has passed away, while 17% believe they have.
When asked to pick their favorite of these films involving spirituality—The Da Vinci Code, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Sixth Sense, The Ten Commandments, Ghost, and It’s a Wonderful Life—one out of every four people selected The Ten Commandments.
The movie selection seems to have a strange bias or lack of similarity, so the comparison seems skewed, but in the end, does that matter much?
Before reading this article, I would like to make one more plea asking you to fill out my York Rite Survey. The results of this survey will be used to help me develop a program to help the York Rite in my jurisdiction and hopefully the benefits will extend beyond my state. Anyone can fill it out, it is crucial that I get more responses from non-York Rite Masons. Please provide me with some brotherly relief and take two minutes to fill out this survey. Thank you.
I was having my coffee and enjoying my Sunday morning while watching a recent rerun of an episode of The Colbert Report when the show suddenly caught my attention. Colbert’s guest was Robert Wright who has written a book entitled The Evolution of God. This is a topic that I have long been fascinated with because as I have studied the Bible over the years, I have noticed how the depiction of God evolves throughout the history of the Hebrews and eventually gets a huge makeover when Jesus begins to teach.
The God that Abraham served was extremely personal and was even willing to appear to Abraham as a human, almost like a personal angel. The God of Moses was wrathful. The God of David was often a warrior. Then as the Bible transfers to the New Testament, God becomes a universal being who exists for all of creation. This evolution is not unique to the religions which look to the books of the Bible for enlightenment, mankind is continually making God into a more loving and universal creature. Polytheism and idolatry are types of worship which continually keep disappearing and our society is now starting to make the leap from Deism to agnosticism and eventually atheism. While I have not yet read Robert Wright’s book, he explains that he came to a similar conclusion in his interview with Colbert.
This is a topic that is very relevant to Freemasonry. As Freemasons, we have carried the banner of universality in spirituality for nearly three centuries. There are very few places in the world where men of all creeds can sit in harmony and recognize each other as equals and not judge a man based on his own religious choices. Oh sure, there are plenty of examples of Freemasons that don’t understand this and erroneously regard Freemasonry as a Christian organization, but the knowledgeable Mason understands the fallacy of this idea. It is crucial that Freemasons understand the critical role of the organization in creating peaceful relations among men of all beliefs.
In this age of combative 24-hour news and increased divisiveness in issues such as religion and politics, it is crucial for Freemasons to remain the peacemakers. This is an idea that Albert Pike expounds upon in the 6th degree of the Scottish Rite and the American York Rite gives an example of peaceful religious relations in the Order of the Red Cross, when Darius offers his protection to the Jews so that they can rebuild the temple of their God. Of course, these ideas are well covered by the symbol of the Master Mason’s trowel. As society evolves and the perception of God evolves with it, Freemasons should be happy to be at the forefront of the fight for religious understanding and equality.
Today’s men can use a place to go to escape from religious and political bickering and enjoy fellowship with men of all walks of life which are bound to aid, support, and protect each other. I plan on buying a copy of the book The Evolution of God and gaining some insight into mankind’s perception of Deity. After all, couldn’t understanding someone else’s perspective do us all some good?
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Ferris Thompson was sitting on a bench outside of the lodge building, enjoying a pipe full of Marlin Flake. One of the younger, more progressive members of the lodge, Sean, came out of the building and sat by him.
“I hear that Brian dimitted from the lodge,” he said, “he gave some reasons including the fact that he determined that since Masonry wasn’t solely Christian in nature, he didn’t feel he could belong.”
“Is that so?” asked Ferris. “Well, if that’s what he has decided then it is what is best for him.”
“Yup. I just don’t get guys like that. Christians—especially church goers—are just so ignorant. Don’t they know that the Jesus story has been told a million times before? Or that the origins of their religion are just as pagan as the origins of any other? I think that any Mason that still considers himself a devout Christian has no place in the organization.”
Ferris puffed on his pipe for a couple of moments, composing his thoughts.
“So who convinced you to come to that conclusion?”
“Well, I did. I studied Christianity and spirituality a lot and it didn’t take long for me to realize it was worthless.”
“Hmmm…that is interesting indeed. But did you ever consider the early Christians that closely examined their religion like Paul and John? What about Martin Luther or John Calvin? There certainly have been men that studied Christianity much more thoroughly than you have, so thoroughly that it consumed their entire lives and yet they still subscribed to the Christian religion. What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a computer programmer.”
“So would you say you have devoted the majority of your life to the study of Christianity?”
“So who are you to tell these men that they are wrong? Who are you to tell any man who has devoted the same amount of time that you have to such study that they have come to the wrong conclusion?”
Sean became defensive, “Well, do you believe that Christian stuff?”
“Some of it, yes. Some of it, no. But it is my decision and my faith. In a Masonic lodge, no dogma is greater than any other. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or even personal, independent worship are perfectly equal in the lodge. Our symbolism is applicable to every religion and no religion at the same time. No one can look at the faith of his Brother and say ‘Mine is better.’”
Sean thought for a second and then said, “You can if they have developed an incorrect image of God.” He had a smirk on his face, he thought he had fooled his senior Brother.
“Have you ever met God?”
The smirk left Sean’s face. Ferris emptied the contents of his pipe bowl.
“My Brother, you have taken great steps to find the destination of your personal spiritual journey and I commend you for that. But you cannot degrade those that have taken another path. Are they not still traveling toward the same destination? A Mason must be tolerant, he must accept that others may disagree with him. Do Christian Masons have the right to tell you that you are wrong and that Masonry is a Christian organization?”
Sean swallowed, as though he was digesting his pride. “No they don’t…I suppose I have been a little hard headed about this, huh?”
“Sure you have, but now you’ve learned. Now suppose you give me your interpretation of the symbolism of the Third Degree based on your religious views and later we can discuss it from my perspective.”