to Critics of Freemasonry!
Attacks on Freemasonry are not new to our fraternity. From the
1700s to Hitler and Mussolini's persecution of Freemasons in the 30s, Franco's execution
of Freemasons in the 1950s and the Iranian government's elimination of Freemasons in the
1980s, to today's attacks by some religious organizations, one thing is evidently clear,
Freemasonry has survived the test of time while most of the organizations who have
attacked Freemasonry have not.
From Northern Ireland to Iran, from the Middle East to the United
States, religious extremism is a growing force throughout the world.
Jarred by the rapid pace of social and cultural change, especially the
disintegration of moral values and the break-up of the family, some people within this
movement have sought refuge from the complexity of modern life by embracing absolute views
and rejecting tolerance of other beliefs.
Simple, easy, seemingly stable answers bring comfort in a rapidly
changing world. For example, some religious organizations have responded to the personal
anguish of their members by circling the wagons, that is, by strictly defining theological
concepts and insisting their members "purify" their fellowship by renouncing any
The next step, already taken by various religious organizations, is to
yield degrees of control within their ranks to vocal factions espousing extremist views.
These splinter groups focus the congregation's generalized anxieties on specific targets.
The proffered cure-all is to destroy the supposed enemy. Freemasonry has become one of
these targets precisely because it encourages members to form their own opinion on many
important topics, including religion.
Thus some churches have expressed concerns, even condemnations, of Freemasonry. Generally,
these are knee jerk actions and are based on misunderstandings and false information. A
case in point is the June 1993 report to the Southern Baptist Convention by the
Convention's Home Mission Board. This report defined eight alleged conflicts between the
tenets and teachings of the Masonic fraternity and Southern Baptist theology.
Let's briefly look at those areas as representative of the thinking of
some well-meaning but misinformed church members today, and see if the concerns are real
or simply a matter of misinformation or
misunderstanding. Most of the issues really deal with language in one way or
another. Almost every organization has a special vocabulary of words which are
understood by the group. It's hardly appropriate for someone from outside the
group, and without the special knowledge of the group, to object to the terminology unless
he or she fully understands it and why it is used.
If someone wants to read the Journal of the American Medical
Association, for example, that is his right-but he doesn't have a right
to complain that the articles use medical terms. A person reading a
cookbook had better know that terms like fold, cream the butter, or soft ball have special
meanings-or he'll make a mess instead of a cake.
The same is true of non-masons reading Masonic materials. As to the critique
of Freemasonry by the Southern Baptist Convention (which, incidentally, had several
positive things to say about masonry), here is a brief explanatory discussion of each
Some don't understand the historic source of the terms used in
Freemasonry. They complain of "offensive" titles such as Worshipful Master for
the leader of a lodge. This is simply a matter of misinterpretation. The leader of a lodge
is called the Master of the lodge for the same reason the leader of an orchestra is called
the Concert Master, or a highly skilled electrician is called a Master
Electrician, or the leader of a Scout troop is called a Scoutmaster.
Masonic use of the term Master originated in the guilds of the Middle Ages
when the person most skillful was called the Master. Much of the
vocabulary dates from this period. For instance, "Worshipful" is a term that is
still used today in Canada and most Commonwealth countries to refer to such officials as
mayors of cities. Worshipful John Doe means exactly the same thing as The Honourable John
Doe. Some persons seem not to distinguish between "worshipful" and
"worshipable". There is certainly nothing irreligious in the title as used in
"Archaic, Offensive Rituals"
Some object to the use of "archaic,
offensive rituals" and what they
term as "blood oaths." There is nothing offensive in Masonic rituals, at least
not to anyone who understands them. They are ancient, many of them so old their origins
are long lost in history. But there is nothing bad in that. Many creeds and statements of
faith are far older than masonic rituals. The Lord's Prayer is 2,000 years old, but no one
suggests it be updated just because it was set down long ago. The United States
Declaration of Independence is about the same age as the Master Mason degree, but few
complain that it is "archaic".
As to the allegedly "bloody oaths", the traditional penalties associated with
the Masonic obligations (Freemasons take an obligation, not an oath), they have their
origins in the legal system of medieval Europe and were actual punishments inflicted by
the state on persons guilty of fighting for civil liberty and religious freedom.
They have long been a particular target for critics of Freemasonry and it cannot be
concealed that, on occasion, initiates into the Craft have been unpleasantly surprised at
the nature of punishments which, in theory, await those who dishonor their engagements.
What our critics fail to mention is that in 1965 the Mother Grand Lodge, The United Grand
Lodge of England, changed the wording, on a recommendation from Bishop Herbert, a
Freemason, from "under no less a penalty" to now state "ever bearing in
mind the traditional penalty, that of having" which is generally followed today.
In Freemasonry, these penalties are entirely symbolic. They refer to the shame a
conscientious man should feel at the thought he had broken a promise, and they remind us
of the price so many have paid for the liberties and freedoms Freemasons are pledged to
Some critics of Freemasonry claim the recommended readings for some of the degrees of
Freemasonry are "pagan." Pagan, as they are using the term, simply means
pre-Christian. The study of man's moral and intellectual history allows the
achievement of Freemasonry's major purpose, the enhancement of an individual's moral and
intellectual development. Such a study has to start with the concepts of man and God
as held by early cultures and evidenced in their mythologies. The ancient
Greeks and Romans, as well as earlier peoples, had much of importance to say on many
topics, including religion. The idea that a physician must act in the best interests of
his patient comes from the pagan Hypocrites, and the concept that a government cannot
break into your house and take what it wants on a whim comes from the pagan
Aristotle. None of us would want to live in a world without these ideas.
The source of nearly all anti-Masonic material relating to Freemasonry as being pagan
evolves from the writings of Albert Pike and Dr. Albert Mackey, two American Freemasons
who were devoted to the study of ancient mysteries and societies, Dr. Mackey being
one of the most voluminous writers of his time. During their time they were looked upon as
being scholars of their day but to a serious student of Freemasonry today they are
more likely to be referred to as self-taught mystics and not the Masonic authorities
anti-Masonic writers would like to have you believe.
Mackey and Pike embraced the ancient mysteries avidly. Pike's Morals &
Dogma, written in 1871, is given over to ancient paganism. Mackey in Masonic
Ritualist, written in 1867, and Symbolism of Freemasonry, written in 1869, carried it not
only to an absurd degree, but to an extent which can hardly be less than revolting to a
In order to properly interpret Mackey and Pike on paganism, one must
understand that they entered the Masonic fraternity in the 1840s, when
was at its height and both walked unsuspectingly into the circle of magism, paganism and
occultism before they were properly seasoned in the history of the Craft. Those
things that were indisputably Masonic, such as the Gothic Constitutions, the minutes of
early lodges in the pre-Grand Lodge era, they ignored, but chose to follow irresponsible
writers who were teaching doctrines neither then nor since approved or adopted by any
Grand Lodge. It is only fair to say that Mackey, in later years, made a
retraction of his former paganistic doctrines. But that received nothing like the
wide-spread publicity which had been accorded his former notions and certainly did not bar
the sale and circulation of his books containing the repudiated material. It is improbable
that Truth can ever keep up with Error, for there will always be those individuals who
will prefer to quote Mackey as being an authoritarian source for Freemasons, failing to
mention that this material was retracted by Albert Mackey who died on June 20, 1881.
Without the writings of Pike and Mackey, anti-Masonic authors are left with little
material of notoriety to formulate their startling allegations.
A scrutiny of any of the current anti-Masonic books, such as those
written by John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Edward Decker, Rev. James Shaw, Tom McKenney, Rev.
Ron Colson and Pat Robertson, will readily show their quoted sources as being Albert Pike,
Dr. Albert Mackey or Manly P. Hall's The Lost Keys of Freemasonry published in 1923.
In the case of Manly P. Hall, the anti-Masonic writers have failed to
read Hall's preface in which he states "At the time I wrote this
slender volume, I had
just passed my twenty-first birthday, and my only contact with Freemasonry was through a
few books commonly available to the public." Those books were by Pike and
Mackey. Hall, the founder of The Philosophical Research Society in Los
Angeles, did not become a Freemason until 1954.
In almost every field-law, government, music, philosophy, mathematics,
etc.-it is necessary to review the work of early writers and thinkers. Freemasonry is no
exception. But to study the work of ancient cultures is not the same as to do what they
did or believe what they believed. No Freemason is ever told what he should believe
in matters of faith. That is not the task of a fraternity, nor the government.
That is the duty of a person's revealed religion and is appropriately expressed
through his or her church.
The Bible as "Furniture"
Ironically, some people complain about the Bible in the lodge being
referred to in Masonic ritual as the "furniture of the lodge." Again,
it's a matter of not understanding how Masons use the word. Freemasons use
"furniture" in its original meaning of "as an essential part of the
lodge". All lodges must have a Volume of the Sacred Law open during every meeting. In
North America, this is almost always the Bible which is an essential part of Freemasonry
and its ritual. The term Volume of the Sacred Law refers to the sacred book of the
predominant religion of the particular country in which the lodge resides. Often in
Masonic lodges there will be more than one book of faith. Every Freemason has the right to
have his particular book of faith open in the lodge should he not follow the Christian
doctrine. The Bible used by Freemasons is commonly known as the authorized King James
version, and not Albert
Pike's Morals & Dogma which radical fundamentalists claim as being the
All anti-Masonic material constantly refers to the 1871 writings of Albert
Pike as a source of their attacks on Freemasonry-what they fail to mention or have
failed to read is the preface contained in Morals & Dogma: "In preparing this
work, the Grand Commander (Pike) has been about equally Author and Compiler; since he has
extracted quite half its contents from the works of the best writers and most philosophic
or eloquent thinkers. Perhaps it would have been better and more acceptable if he had
extracted more and written less.
Still, perhaps half of it is his own; and, in incorporating here the
thoughts and words of others, he has continually changed and added to the language, often
intermingling, in the same sentences, his own words with theirs. It not being
intended for the world at large, he has felt at liberty to make, from all accessible
sources, a compendium of the Morals and Dogma of the Rite, to re-mould sentences, change
and add to words and phrases, combine them with his own, and use them as if they were his
own, to be dealt with at his pleasure and so availed of as to make the whole most valuable
for the purposes intended. He claims,
therefore, little merit of the authorship, and has not cared to
distinguish his own from that which he has taken from other sources, being quite willing that every portion of the book, in turn, may be
regarded as borrowed from some older and better writer.
"The Meaning of "Light"
Other critics of Freemasonry are concerned that when Masons use
"light" someone might think the word is referring to salvation rather than
truth or knowledge. But that is word misinterpretation again. Light was a symbol of
knowledge long before it was a symbol of salvation. Masonry uses light as a symbol of the
search of truth and knowledge. It is very unlikely any mason would think masonic
"light" represents salvation. "Salvation by Works" Some believe
Freemasonry teaches that salvation may be attained by one's good works. Masonry does not
teach any path to salvation. That is the job of a church, not a fraternity. The closest
Freemasonry comes to this issue is to point to the open Bible and tell the mason to search
there for the path to eternal life.
Freemasonry believes in the importance of doing good works, but as a matter of individual
moral and social responsibility. The path to
salvation is only found in each mason's particular house of worship, and not his
There are those who claim some Masonic writers teach the " heresy of
universalism." Universalism is the doctrine that all men and women are ultimately
saved. Freemasonry does not teach universalism nor any other doctrine of salvation. Again,
doctrines of salvation are the province of a church, not a fraternity. In point of
fact, one has to look rather hard to find those "many Masonic writers" who
supposedly teach universalism, but even if you could find one, he's writing a statement of
personal opinion. It's important to remember that any Masonic author writes for himself
alone, not as an official of the Masonic fraternity. Freemasonry simply does not
have a position, official or otherwise, on salvation. Since men of all religious faiths
are welcome in Freemasonry.
Freemasons are careful not to offend the faith of any. Possibly, that
may seem to be universalism to some critics. Freemasons call it common courtesy.
Some critics, more eager to attack Freemasonry than to put their own houses
in order, allege "most lodges refuse to admit ethnic minorities as members."
Freemasonry is not a whites-only organization, as the hundreds of thousands of Black,
Native American, Asian and Oriental Freemasons all over the world can testify. The
petition for membership in the Masonic order does not ask the race or religion of the
petitioner, and it would be considered completely wrong to do so.
At the international celebration of the 275th anniversary of the Grand
Lodge of England in 1992 (the most recent Masonic gathering of about the same size
as the Southern Baptist Convention) there were far more people of
than there were at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, in 1993.
Is Masonry Compatible with Christianity and other Religions?
Freemasonry is compatible with religion. It may be incompatible,
however, with the way a few narrowly focused people see religion. Of course, most of them
feel that only they have the truth and that even many members of their own congregations
are not as pure as they should be. This brings to mind a letter that appeared in a Dear
Abby column: "One of the toughest tasks a church faces is choosing a good
A member of an official board undergoing this
painful process finally lost his patience. He'd just witnessed the Pastoral
Relations Committee reject applicant after applicant for some minor fault-real or
imagined. It was time for a bit of soul-searching on the part of the committee. So he
stood up and read this letter purporting to be from another applicant. 'Gentlemen;
Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many
qualifications. I've been a preacher with much success and also have had some success as a
writer. Some say I'm a good organizer. I've been a leader most places I've been. I'm over
50 years of age and never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places,
I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in
jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too
good, though I still accomplish a great deal. The churches I have preached in have been
small, though located in several large cities. 'I've not gotten along well with religious
leaders in the towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me, and even
attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget
whom I have baptized. 'However, if you can use me, I promise to do my best for you.' The
board member turned to the committee and said, ' Well, what do you think ? Shall we call
him?' The good church folks were appalled! Consider a sickly, trouble-making,
absent-minded ex-jailbird? Was the board member crazy? Who signed the application?
Who had such colossal nerve? The board member
eyed them all keenly before he replied, 'It's signed, The Apostle Paul.'"
The moral of the story is not to judge before you have all the facts.
Unfortunately only one side, that of the anti-Masonic groups who claim to be religious
leaders and who have claimed to have researched the subject of Freemasonry are heard. We
say only one side has been heard because none of these people have bothered to contact any
of today's recognized Masonic historians, they prefer to quote from books that were
written 125 years ago; a dead author cannot give a rebuttal.
They are deceitful men who have generated enough power through the publication of their
various books and videos to sway decisions and have been having a field day at our
expense. Their one great hope for success is that they can make accusations, knowing
that no one will respond. How unfortunate it would be if we had to curtail our
charitable endeavors to defend ourselves from the malicious misinformation that is
spread by a few zealots who have no other interest than selling their propaganda attacking
Our membership has traditionally taken the position of not responding to the ridiculous
statements propounded by these zealots. Times change though, and our membership, weary of
all these self styled revelations and exposures, may soon have to re-evaluate their
position and take a firmer stance against these groups. Freemasonry stands, as it has
always stood, with open arms, saying, "Believe as your conscience dictates."
Freemasonry and religion
Our purpose as Freemasons is not that of a religion.
Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion.
Freemasonry is not a religion nor is it a substitute for religion.
Freemasonry advocates no sectarian faith or practise.
We seek no converts.
We solicit no new members.
We raise no money for religious purposes.
We have no dogma or theology. Religious discussion is forbidden in a Masonic lodge thereby
eliminating the chance for any Masonic dogma to form.
It offers no sacraments and does not claim to lead to salvation by
works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of
Freemasonry are concerned with the modes of recognition only and not with the means of
By any definition of religion accepted by our critics, we cannot qualify as a religion.
Freemasonry supports religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent to
religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each
member to follow his own faith.
A man does not subscribe to a new religion, much less to an
anti-Christian religion when he becomes a Freemason, any more than when he joins any
political party or the YMCA. There is nothing in Freemasonry that is opposed to the
religion he brings with him into the Masonic lodge. Freemasonry does not assert nor does
it teach that one religion is as good as another. Freemasonry admits men of all religions.
Freemasons believe in religious freedom and that the relationship
between the individual and his God is personal, private and sacred.
We do not apply a theological test to a candidate. We do ask a man if he believes in
God and that is the only religious test. Belief in God is faith; belief about God is
theology. As Freemasons we are interested in faith only and not in theology. Religion is
not permitted to be discussed at Masonic meetings.
Freemasonry is a completely tolerant organization. When Freemasonry accepts a
Christian, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, it does not accept him as such, but
accepts him as a man, worthy to be received into the Masonic fraternity.
Freemasonry stands for the values that are supreme in the life of the church and expects
each member to follow his own faith and to place his duty to God above all other duties.
We are sure that a member who is true to the principles he learns in Freemasonry will be a
better church member because of it.