The Age Old Question: Is
Freemasonry A Religion?
By Worshipful Brother
Frederic L. Milliken
Yes, Freemasonry Is Religion, And Itís
Incompatible With Some Christian Beliefs. Hereís Why.
July 21, 2014
Iíve been a Freemason for only about four
years, but Iíve 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 ďno, we donít have a problem with Catholics, but the Catholic Church
has a problem with us,Ē and ďEvangelical Christianity is perfectly compatible
with Freemasonry.Ē These kind of skirmishes happen all the time. And then
thereís 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 itís 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 heís totally right.
In all fairness, though, whether freemasonry is
compatible with certain religions isnít only up to us. Many practitioners of
those religions make great points. Iíve even got some favorites.
Freemasonry distracts you from God, taking
time away from your family, and your worship, and that is Satanís 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 manís 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. Iíve 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. Itís 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 canít flip hotcakes for your lodge on
Saturday and waffles for your church on Sunday. And nothing says you canít
focus on being a better man in lodge and in church. A little double coverage
never hurt anyone.
The teachings donít 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 youíre a Christian, is the Bible.
It will be sitting there, open, on the altar. And Iím personally not a
Christian, but Iím pretty sure Jesus is in there. Somewhere in the back, I
Now, thatís 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 donít 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 wonít grind.
If you have a problem with the tolerance off
freemasonry, then thereís 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 canít be a part of that.
This never happens.
Now Iíve 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 doesnít propose
any particular way to get anywhere, and that even if that were the case, one
neednít accept such a premise to join or participate in a lodge. But this
prayer thing is something that Iíve 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. AndÖmy brain just broke a bit. I realized, not for the first time in my
life, that some peopleĖperfectly nice peopleĖare just completely different.
And not just in a ďsame goals but different pathsĒ way. Just. Completely.
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. Itís a Christian belief, though not
a widely held one. And itís not a belief Iíd 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. Thatís the kind of wild idea that
some religious practitioners reject out of hand.
I really donít 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 donít think that is compatible
Worse yet, I donít think thatís compatible with
the American Way, because much like the masons, America is founded on the idea
of tolerance, and from manyĖone. 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 Iím not going to define it for you, but itís certainly easy to see why so
many non-freemasons see it as a religion. There is an awful lot of crossover,
here. Masonry doesnít tell you what god to pray to, it doesnít 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 Iím
hardly the only mason who has said this. Thereís a beautiful passage in a
Masonic play, A
Rose Upon the Altar.
Freemasonry, my brother, is, truly, not a religion.
But it is religionĖreligion in its truest, purest sense. We donít worship a God
hereĖwe worship the Great Architect. We have His word for itĖinasmuch as ye
have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it to me. At
this AltarÖgood 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 madeÖcome unto me, all ye who labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you restÖThis Altar is Godís.
And there it is. I mean, argue if you want. You
donít have to agree. You may even be right. Iím sure Iíll get flack from
masons and Christians alike. A Masonic lodge is no substitute for your church
or house of worship, and Iíd 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
And yes, some religious practices just donít
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 todayís 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.
Freemasonryís 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. Thatís how you end up
with the Grand Master of Florida expelling two Brothers for not being
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 Ďtis 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
The key phrase here is ďthat religion
in which all men agree.Ē 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
- No specific Holy Book
- No sacraments
- No ordained clergy
- No definition of Deity
- No dogma, no creed Ė that is no ideological
- 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
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. Itís 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.
site put it:
Freemasonry is kindness in the home;
honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in oneís 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?