Is Freemasonry a Religion?

April 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Posted in The Religion of Freemasonry | Leave a comment

Most Masons, and every Grand Lodge in the world, will vehemently say that Freemasonry is NOT a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion.  But if it clearly has all of the trappings of a religion, and meets a dictionary definition of religion, would that make it a religion?  Of course it would.  As the old adage goes, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s a duck!”  Yet the institution of Freemasonry (the Lodge) declares that it is merely a fraternity that performs social, civic and philanthropic activities.   However, let’s take a closer look at Freemasonry and allow you, the reader of this blog, to decide for yourself.

 Freemasonry has certain “religious” requirements for membership.  Every candidate for Masonic membership must:

  1. Believe in “a” Supreme Being (any ‘ol god of choice)
  2. Believe in the immortality of the soul

By the way, Freemasonry places a nebulous emphasis on defining just who God is.  Whether it be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism, Allah of Islam, or the ever-evolving Brahma of Hinduism, Masonically they ALL represent the Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU).

Every Masonic Lodge must contain certain “religious” furniture in order to operate:

  1. Every lodge must have an altar
  2. Every Masonic altar must have opened upon it a Volume of Sacred Law (VSL), but not necessarily the Holy Bible

Additionally, regarding the VSL, it doesn’t matter whether it be the Old & New Testaments for the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Muslim man, or the Vedas to the Brahman, in Freemasonry they all convey the same idea—that of the symbolism of the Divine Will of God revealed to man. What’s more, prayers are performed in every Masonic lodge, not just to open and close its sessions, but even for the sanctification of every new candidate for initiation.  As one Grand Lodge puts it:

Every Mason must believe in [a] God and in the immortality of the soul.  The VSL must be open on every Lodge Altar.  A candidate takes his Obligations upon his knees.  Before engaging in any important undertaking [i.e. initiation] a Mason seeks aid and guidance through prayer from the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe.  This is religion, but it is not a religion.  It is faith, but it is not a faith confined to any one creed.  It is worship, but it is not a worship chained to any one Altar.  In the great words of the First Book of Constitutions it is the religion in which all good men agree.  It is the ground which underlies all religions, all churches, all creeds… (emphasis added)

Grand Lodge of Florida, Lodge System of Masonic Education, Booklet 1, pg. 11

Given what’s been shared so far, does this sound more like a fraternity or a religion?  Thirty-third degree Mason Jim Tresner, would say that it all depends on how you define religion:

 No, not by the definitions most people use. Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan of salvation or path by which one reaches the afterlife; a theology which attempts to define the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may need to communicate with God. Masonry does none of those things. . . . Have some Masonic writers said that Masonry is a religion? Yes, and again, it’s a matter of definition. If, as some writers have, you define religion as “man’s urge to venerate the beautiful, serve the good and see God in everything,” you can say that Masonry subscribes to a religion. But that, surely, is not in conflict with Christianity or any other faith. (emphasis added)

 Conscience and the Craft by the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, 1992, pages 2-3

We will address his point about Masonic writers declaring Freemasonry as a religion in just a moment.  But since he said it depends on how you define religion, let’s take a look at an appropriate dictionary definition of religion, and ask yourself, does the aforementioned information appear to be describing this definition:

 A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. — merriam-webster.com

As was mentioned at the beginning, most Masons will vehemently deny that Freemasonry is a religion.  But some prominent Masons would disagree with them.  Here is what a few of them have to say about it:

Some attempt to avoid the issue by saying that Freemasonry is not a religion but is religious, seeming to believe that the substitution of an adjective for a noun makes a fundamental difference.  It would be as sensible to say that man had no intellect but was intellectual or that he had no honor but was honorable. . .  The oft-repeated aphorism: “Freemasonry is not a religion, but is most emphatically religion’s handmaid,” has been challenged as meaningless, which it seems, to be. . .  Freemasonry certainly requires a belief in the existence of, and man’s dependence upon, a Supreme Being to whom he is responsible.  What can a church add to that, except to bring into one fellowship those who have like feelings?

That is exactly what the lodge does. . .  Does Freemasonry have a creed (I believe) or tenet (he holds) or dogma (I think) to which all members must adhere?  Does Freemasonry continually teach and insist upon a creed, tenet, and dogma?  Does it have meetings characterized by the practice of rites and ceremonies in and by which its creed, tenet, and dogma are illustrated by myths, symbols, and allegories?  If Freemasonry were not religion, what would have to be done to make it such? . . .  The difference between a lodge and a church is one of degree and not of kind. . .  Freemasonry has a religious service to commit the body of a deceased brother to the dust whence it came and to speed the liberated spirit back to the Great Source of Light? . . .  Many Freemasons make this flight with no other, guarantee of a safe landing than their belief in the religion of Freemasonry.  If that is a false hope; the Fraternity should abandon funeral services and devote its attention to activities where it is sure of its ground and its authority. (emphasis added)

Henry W. Coil, 33º ‘Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia’, page 512

Folks, this is why famous Masonic author Carl Claudy can get away with saying:

 The Master Mason learns that true Freemasonry gives to a man a well-spent life and assurance of a glorious immortality.

 Carl Claudy, Foreign Countries, page 11

Other well-known Masonic writers assert that Freemasonry is religion. One is the most eminent Masons of all-time, Albert Pike, declared:

Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instructions in religion…  This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs;  which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures…  It is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted in the heart of universal humanity.  … The ministers of this religion are all Masons who comprehend it; … (emphasis added)

Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, pages 213-219

Then there is the prolific author, Albert G. Mackey, a Masonic historian, ritualist, and thirty-third degree Mason, who writes:

There has been a needless expenditure of ingenuity and talent, by a large number of Masonic orators and essayists, in the endeavor to prove that Freemasonry is not a religion. : . . On the contrary, we contend, without any sort of hesitation, that Freemasonry is, in every sense of the word, except one, and that its least philosophical, an eminently religious institution-that it is indebted solely to the religious element it contains for its origin as well as its continued existence, and that without this religious element it would scarcely be worthy of cultivation by the wise and good.  . . . We open and close our Lodges with prayer; we invoke the blessing of the Most High upon all our labors; we demand of our neophytes a profession of trusting belief in the existence and the superintending care of [a] God; and we teach them to bow with humility and reverence at His awful name, while His Holy Law is widely opened upon our altars. Freemasonry is thus identified with religion. [emphasis added]

 Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey, rev. ed., Vol. 2, 1966, pages 846-47

Masonic scholar Robert Macoy said:

That Freemasonry should be spoken of as a religious institution, or as imparting religious instruction, undoubtedly sounds strange to those who think religion must necessarily be confined to a particular set of theological dogmas, or, in other words, be sectarian. But why should it be thought necessary to make religion traverse simply the narrow circle of sectarian ideas? Is it not a degradation to confine it to so limited a sphere?

Past Grand Chaplain, Joseph Fort Newton, 33º, of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, states that:

It is true that Masonry is not a religion, but it is Religion, a worship in which all good men may unite, that each may share the faith of all.

Joseph F. Newton, The Builders, pages 250-251 

Finally, the Masonic ritual is the written authority of what constitutes Freemasonry.  And it even declares that:

“Speculative, or Freemasonry is so far interwoven with religion as to lay us under obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity which at once constitutes our duty and our happiness. It leads the contemplative mind to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation, and inspires him with the most exalted ideas of the perfection of his divine Creator.” (emphasis added)

Although I could go on ad nauseum, let me stop here and ask you to respond to the question.  After reading all of this what say you?  Can you now honestly say Freemasonry is not a religion? If not, then what is it?  If you cannot bring yourself to all it a religion, then call it a cult, or a universal-strangely-religious-brotherhood of men who wear aprons when they meet, but whatever you do, you certainly can’t just say it is merely a social, civic, philanthropic fraternity.

To learn more about the Order of Former Freemasons, visit us at www.formermasons.org.

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