QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON RELIGION AND FREEMASONRY
I undertake this task with considerable trepidation. Indeed,
it not for a belief that it is sinful to be silent when
misunderstandings create pain and confusion, I would probably decline.
world of Masonry is vast, complex, and rich, but it is small
compared to the immense sweep and scope of thought, faith,
and culture contained in the word Christianity.
As a professed and professing member of the Christian
of Christ) Church, I have never found any conflict between
the Lodge room and the sanctuary. And indeed, as the Reverend
Norman Vincent Peale, one of the best known Christian and Masonic
authors of today, has remarked, there can never
be conflict between
Christianity and any other organization which constantly urges its
members to live a moral life.
are some questions often asked by those who are
not members of Masonry. The responsibility for the answers is my own,
I have tried to draw from the best known and most respected
Q: Is Masonry a religion?
No, not by the definition most people use. Religion, as the
term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan of salvation
path by which one reaches the afterlife; a theology which attempts to
describe the nature of God; and the description
of ways or practices
by which a man or woman may seek to communicate with God.
Masonry does none of these things. We
offer no plan of
salvation. With the exception of saying the He is a loving Father who
desires only good for His children,
we make no effort to describe the
nature of God. And while we open and close our meeting with prayer,
and we teach that
no man should ever enter upon any important
undertaking without seeking the guidance of God, we never tell a man
he should pray or for what he should pray.
Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these
in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other
house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual
and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As
the Grand Lodge of England wrote in Freemasonry and Religion,
is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering
in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own
and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name
He is known." Masonry itself makes only
a simple religious demand on a
man-he must believe that he has an immortal soul and he must believe
in God. No atheist
can be a Mason.
Q: Why are Masonic buildings called "Temples?" Doesn't that
suggest a religious building?
Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a
definition for the word "temple" which is as good an explanation
any: "a building, usually of imposing size, serving the public or an
organization in some special way; as a temple
of art, a Masonic
Q: Have some Masonic writers said that Masonry is a religion?
A: Yes, and again,
it's a matter of definition. If, as some
writers have, you define religion as "man's urge to venerate the
to serve the good, and see God in everything," you can say
that Masonry subscribes to a religion. But that, surely, is
conflict with Christianity or any other faith.
Q: Is Freemasonry a Mystery Religion?
A: No. The relationship
(if any) between Freemasonry and the
Ancient Mysteries is a favorite topic of speculation among Masonic
just as mathematicians tend to write for other
mathematicians and historians tend to write for other historians,
writers tend to write for other Masonic writers. Many things
are never explained, simply because it is assumed the reader
Many Masonic writers say that Freemasonry uses the tradition
of the so-called "Ancient Mysteries."
(Others, meaning the same thing,
say that Masonry is the successor to the Mysteries.) By that, we
simply mean that Masonry
also seeks to find men and help them develop
in thought and understanding-to seek enlightenment. The principles of
(not to be confused with the principles of salvation),
compassion, concern, love, trustworthiness, integrity, a sense of
with history-these are the elements of the Mysteries,
along with other schools of thought, preserved by Freemasonry. And
are not in conflict with any faith.
Masonry has nothing to do with the religion taught in the
Mysteries of the ancient
or any other times. Rather, we are concerned
with the ethics and morality taught in these Mysteries, especially
ethics and morality which have been ratified by Christianity and
every major religion of mankind.
Q: Can a man be
a Christian and a Mason at the same time?
A: Perhaps the best answer to is that most of us are, at least in
United States. The ranks of Masonry have been and are
distinguished by many of the outstanding religious leaders of America.
quick scan through the book, 10,000 Famous Freemasons, gives us
these names from history. Among many others are:
Charles T. Aikens, who served as President of the Lutheran
Synod of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Bishop James Freeman,
the Episcopal Bishop of Washington,
D.C., who first conceived and began the construction of the National
William F. Anderson, one of the most important leaders
of the United Methodist Church.
William R. White, 33, who
served as President of Baylor, and
Secretary of the Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention.
Burrows, Civil War hero and Secretary of the
Southern Baptist Convention.
Rev. James C. Baker, who created the Wesley
Rev. Hugh I. Evans, who served as national head of a Presbyterian
It is useful on this
question to let some of America's most
honored clergy speak for themselves. Carl J. Sanders, 33, Bishop of
Methodist Church and holder of the highest honor, the
Grand Cross, conferred by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern
USA, writes: "My Masonic activities have never
interfered with my loyalty to and my love for my Church. Quite to the
my loyalty to my Church has been strengthened by my Masonic
ties. Good Masons are good Churchmen."
Dr. James P. Wesberry,
32, KCCH, former Executive Director
and Editor of the Baptist publication Sunday, writes: "It is no secret
love and revere the Bible, nor is it a secret that Masonry
helped to preserve it in the darkest age of the church when
sought to destroy it. The Bible meets Masons with its sacred message
at every step of progress in its various
The Rev. Louis R. Gant, 33, Mason and District Superintendent
of the Methodist Church, writes: "Let no one
say you cannot be a
Christian and a Mason at the same time. I know too many who are
both, and proud to be both."
we are proud, as Masons, that members of all faiths
have found value in the Fraternity. Rabbi Seymour Atlas, 33, and
of some the highest Masonic honors, writes of what he finds in
"I was brought up in a religious home, a son
of a Rabbi with seven
generations of Rabbis preceding me.... I am proud to be a Mason who
believes in the dignity of
God's children and opposes hatred and
bigotry, and stands for truth, justice, kindness, integrity, and
Q: Is Masonry anti-Christian?
A: No. Masonry is not anti any religion. This charge is raised by
anti-Masonic writers. Quoting Matthew 12:30 ("He that is not with
me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me,
abroad."), they claim that, since Masonry does not require its members
to be Christian, we are actively anti-Christian.
of all, a reading of the entire passage makes it quite
clear that Jesus was answering the Pharisees who were criticizing
it is not a passage which relates to the present discussion at all.
Most people wouldn't agree that there are only
two positions in the
world-Christian and anti-Christian. The government of the United
States, the city library, even
the natural gas company, all serve and
employ non-Christians and Christians alike-but no reasonable person
that they were, therefore, "anti-Christian". Masonry
encourages its members in their individual faiths. Masons do not
Q: Does Masonry have a hidden religious agenda or practice that
is known only to "higher" Masons?
No. The religious position of Freemasonry is stated often and
openly, and we've already mentioned it above. A Mason must
in God, and he is actively encouraged to practice his individual
faith. Masonry has no "god" of its own. Some
anti-Masons have said
that we are not allowed to mention the name of God in Lodge. That
isn't true-in fact that is one
of the two meanings of the "G" in the
square and compasses logo (the other meaning is "geometry"). It is
true that we,
generally, use some other term ("The Grand Architect of
the Universe" is most common) to refer to God. That is done only
avoid giving religious offense to anyone whose faith prefers to refer
to God by another name. But the God to whom
Masons pray is the
God to whom all Christians pray.
Q: But haven't some Masonic writers said that the information
in the early Masonic Degrees is incomplete or even misleading?
A: Again, it's a matter of Masonic writers writing to
assume have a background of appropriate knowledge. Another way
we say the same thing is "Masonry is a progressive
revealed by degrees." There nothing astonishing and certainly nothing
sinister in that. ALL knowledge is gained
bit by bit, and this is
especially true in ethics and morality. A minister would do very
little good if he gave a new
member of his church complex texts like
the works of Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Greater good
be accomplished by starting with less complex authors.
Similarly, Masonry introduces the idea of ethics and morality, and
some practical instruction in each. But then it says to the
Mason, "We teach by symbols because symbols can be constantly
Think about these things, read what others have written.
Only in that way can you make the knowledge and insight really
own." Masonry tries very hard to raise questions, and to help
its members acquire the tools for thought-but we do not try
Q: Why is it so hard to find an official statement of Masonic
A: Because there
isn't such a thing. We've already mentioned
everything Masonry has to say officially on the topic. To go further,
an official position, would be to deny a man his right to think for
himself and his right to follow the dictates of his
own faith. Each
Mason has a right to seek in Masonry for what he wants to find. It
is his right to believe as he wishes;
BUT it is not his right to force
that belief on others.
Q: But isn't the Masonic scholar Albert Pike's major book
Morals and Dogma?
A: Yes. As is clear from his writings, however, Pike is using
the word in its original Greek sense
of "that which I think is true,"
or "that which has been thought to be true," not in the modern
sense of "this is what
you are required to believe."
And the question of Morals and Dogma brings up an
important point. Anti- Masonic writers
are forever "discovering"
something they find shocking in the book, largely because they
don't understand what kind
of book it is. Pike was attempting
the almost impossible task of surveying and condensing the whole
history of human
thought in philosophy into one volume. He writes
about the things which were believed in ancient Egypt, China,
over the world. It's easy to take a paragraph out of
context-as one writer does with Pike's comment about the Ancient
belief in Osiris-and then insist that Masons teach and
believe that all good comes from Osiris. But a history lesson is
a statement of theology.
Some of the anti-Masonic writers seem almost deliberately
to twist things to make them say
what they want. As an example,
the same writer takes a passage in which Pike is contrasting the
immortality of the soul
with the temporary nature of earthly things.
To illustrate the impermanence of the body as opposed to the soul,
notes that, when we die, our bodies return again to the earth.
The minerals of which the body was composed may scatter
Those minerals may be picked up again by the roots of plants, grow
into food, and be eaten by other men. This,
the anti-Masonic writer
suggests, is pagan Masonic communion-eating the dead! A simple
illustration is distorted into
a cannibal feast.
Q: Which Masonic writers does Masonry consider authoritative?
A: None, if you mean "authoritative"
in the sense that they speak
for the Fraternity or that what they say is "binding" upon Masons.
Each Mason must think
for himself, and is entitled to write whatever
he wishes. It's like the situation in studying government. If a person
wants to understand American government, he or she almost
has to read Madison's and Hamilton's Federalist Papers as well
Tocqueville and the history of the Constitutional Convention. But none
of these are the law-they are just commentaries
on the way the law
was made, and the thinking of the people who write the Constitution.
It's like that with Masonic
writers. Some have a lot of value
to say-some are useless (each man can write whatever he wants, after
of them speaks for Masonry. He can only speak for
Q: Is there such a thing as a Masonic Bible?
No. The Bibles sometimes called "Masonic Bibles" are just
Bibles (usually the King James Version) to which a concordance,
the Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based,
has been added. Sometimes reference material on Masonic history
included. Anyone is welcome to read one.
Q: Is Freemasonry a secret society?
A: No. A secret society tries
to hide the fact that it exists.
Masonic Lodges are marked with signs, listed in the phone book, and
their meeting places
and times are usually listed in the newspaper.
Members identify themselves with pins and rings. The only secrets
Masonry relate to the ways in which we can recognize each other.
The Ritual of Masonry, the Monitor, is in print and anyone
it. Interestingly, the anti-Masonic writers who condemn us for being a
secret society are always quoting from
the Monitor. If it were a
secret, it isn't a very well-kept one!
Q: So what do Masons mean by "secrecy?" What kind
do we teach?
A: The first and most important kind is the ability to keep
confidences. All of us value
those friends to whom we can talk,
"blow off steam," really open ourselves to, and still know without any
the friend will never tell anyone else or use those
moments of sometimes painful honesty against us in any way. As it says
Proverbs 11:13, "A talebearer revealeth secrets, but he that is of
a faithful spirit concealeth the matter." Masons are
taught that it is
important to be such a friend.
The second kind of secrecy we teach is the idea of "doing good
silence." One of the Masonic Degrees says it this way: "Be careful
that you do not contribute to showy charities in order
to have the
reputation of being a charitable man, while sending away from your
door the poor whom God has sent to test
Secrecy, in those senses, is a virtue, and it is in those
senses it is taught in Masonry.
Q: Can a Christian
take the vows or obligations of a Mason?
A: Yes, with the exception of a very few denominations. If a
belongs to a denomination which forbids all vows, such as
the Oath of Office of the President of the United States or the
oath of the law courts, "I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, so help
me, God," then he probably
could not take Masonry's obligations. Any Christian whose denomination
does not forbid the
presidential or the court oath, or the oath taken
when entering the Armed Services, could take the Masonic obligations.
anti-Masonic writers have complained about the so-called
"penalties" in the Masonic obligations. Those penalties are purely
and refer to the pain, despair, and horror which any honest
man should feel at the thought that he had violated his sworn
Q: Does Masonry use symbols which are diabolical in nature?
A: No. Masonry uses symbols-it's our primary
way of teaching, as
it has been the primary way of teaching from ancient times (just try
teaching arithmetic without
number symbols), but there is nothing
satanic about them. Symbols mean what the person uses them to mean. X
may be a
St. Andrew's Cross, ancient symbol of Scotland, or it may
mean "multiply two numbers together," or "10" in Roman Numerals,
"unknown in algebra," or "don't do this,", or "truce,", or "Xenon" in
chemistry, or "by" as in 2 x 4 board, or "this
is the spot," or even
"railroad crossing." The meaning of the symbol X depends on the
symbol's meaning in the mind of
the person using it.
It's the same with Masonic symbols. We sometimes use the
five-pointed star, for example. Some people
choose to see that as a
symbol of witchcraft. It's their right to use it that way in their own
thinking if they wish.
But we use it as a symbol of man, because that
is its oldest meaning (the five points refer to the head, the hands,
the feet). The five point star, with one point downward, is used
by the Order of Eastern Star. Some anti-Masons like to
see it as a
symbol of a devil. But it's also known as the "Star of the
Incarnation" with the downward-pointing ray representing
when God came down from Heaven and was made incarnate by the Holy
Ghost. And it is in that meaning it is
used by the Eastern Star ("We
have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.")
Q: But don't some writers
say that in the 30th Degree of the
Scottish Rite, the room is filled with diabolical symbols and the
face to face with Lucifer?
A: Some anti-Masonic writers have said that, but it isn't true.
First of all, they mistake
a stage set for a sanctuary. The Degrees of
Masonry are plays, some set in a Lodge room and some using full-stage
The message of the 30th Degree is that man should think
about death (not avoid the thought fearfully) and realize that
is not frightening but a natural process. So the setting contains
traditional symbols of death, like black curtains
and a drawing of a
Putting the Degree's setting aside, the materials anti-Masons
usually quote just do
not come from the 30th Degree. Instead these
quotations come from the anti-Masonic book Scottish Rite Masonry
The anonymous author of the book wildly changed materials
wherever he wished-even some of the names of the Degrees are
Although the book is presented as a Ritual of the Masonic
Fraternity, you need only read through the author's
or end notes to realize that he intends it as an attack on Freemasonry
which he calls "a tissue of
The book is generally quoted by writers who insist that
instead of quoting anti-Masonic materials,
they are using only
material "written by and/or published by Masons for Masons." Perhaps
they have not read the notes.
Is Masonry "guilty" of teaching toleration?
A: Yes. And proud of it! It seems a strange accusation, but
writers often charge that we accept people with many
different religious viewpoints as Brothers. They are correct. Jesus
not say to us, "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love
one another-as long as he goes to the same church you
do, or belongs
to the same political party." Yet one anti-Masonic writer claims that
this toleration is the blackest
sin of Masonry. Toleration, he says,
"springs from the pits of hell and from the father of lies, Lucifer."
consider what intolerance has produced in the world-the
Inquisition, the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem by the
the burning of Protestants at the stake, the horrors of
Hitler, the mass murders of Stalin, the "killing fields" of Cambodia-
is hard to believe that toleration springs from the devil.
Q: Does Freemasonry teach that man can be saved by good
A: That charge is sometimes leveled against us by anti-Masons
who mistake both the nature of Masonry and
the meanings of its Ritual.
Salvation is not a grace which Masonry can or does offer. Within
their Lodges, Freemasons
are not concerned with salvation and
conversion, but with taking men as they are and pointing them in the
of brotherhood and moral improvement. Insofar as the Order
is successful in this aim, it is content, and leaves the member
devote himself to his own religious faith to receive the grace of
In most Masonic Rituals, the candidate
is reminded of that
even before he steps into the Lodge room for the first time. A typical
example reads: You are aware
that whatever a man may have gained
here on earth, whether of titles, wealth, honors, or even his own
merit, it can
never serve him as a passport to heaven; but previous to
his gaining admission there he must become poor and destitute,
and naked, dependent upon the Sovereign Will of God; he must be
divested of the rags of his own righteousness,
and be clothed in a
garment furnished him from on high.
Q: Is a Masonic service a worship service?
Except, perhaps, in the sense that, for a Christian, EVERY
act is an act of worship. Our meetings open and close with prayer.
are encouraged to remember that God sees and knows
everything we do, and the Bible is always open during a Masonic
But it is a meeting of a fraternity, not a worship service.
And that brings up one of the most ridiculous charges
made against us-that our members are "really" worshipping a
demon or some pagan god such as Baalim, Baal, Osiris, Mendes,
etc.-only they don't know it! But you cannot worship something without
knowing it. The act of worship is an act
of full concentration,
knowledge, and devotion-"with all thy heart and with all thy soul and
with all thy mind." We
honor and venerate GOD, not His adversary.
One example will serve to show the complete lack of foundation
of these kinds
of charges. The charge of worshipping a demon usually
involves one named "Baphomet." Historians know the origins of the
brief, during the Middle Ages, a military monastic order,
known as the Knights Templar, grew very wealthy. King Philip
of France and the Pope, wanting to confiscate the treasure of the
Knights Templar, had them thrown into prison
in 1307 and accused them
of heresy, the only charge which would allow confiscation of their
property. Philip, fearing
that the Inquisition would be too gentle,
had his own commissioners involved. After horrible torture, some of
Templar signed confessions-of anything their torturers
wanted. They were then burned at the stake.
A standard part of
the pre-written confessions was worshiping
an idol named Baphomet (language scholars tell us that "Baphomet"
was a term
for "Mohammed" in the Middle Ages). You can read the
full story in any good historical account of the period.
wasn't the name of a demon, the Knights
Templar did not worship him/it, their "confessions" were obtained
at any rate, a false charge used to steal from and
murder military monks in A.D. 1307 has nothing to do with Freemasonry
Did the Masonic scholar Albert Pike really say that all Masons
were secret followers of Lucifer?
A: No. In many
anti-Masonic books you'll see what is supposed to
be a quotation from Pike, saying that all Masons of the "Higher
are secret worshipers of Lucifer. The historical fact is that
those words were written in 1894, three years after Pike's
were written by a notorious atheist and pornographer named Gabriel
Jogand-Pages who was better known by
his pen name, Leo Taxil. Taxil
was engaged in an elaborate hoax to discredit the Church of Rome and
made up the Pike
quotation out of thin air.
His purpose was to show that the Church had failed to
recognize the "threat" posed by Freemasonry
and was, therefore, headed
by fools and incompetents. Taxil publicly admitted the hoax in 1897,
but it had already been
published by a man named Abel Clarin de la
Rive, who took Taxil's hoax at face value.
Rive's book, La Femme et l'Enfant
dans la Franc-Maconnerie
Universelle (Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry), was quoted
by Edith Starr Miller in
1933 in her book Occult Theocrasy. She
translated the "quotation" into English.
Since that time, several writers of
anti-Masonic books have
simply repeated the "quotation" without checking on its source or
authenticity. Taxil's public
confession notwithstanding, the lie
continues to shadow the name of Pike, who was, to his death, an
Can one learn more about Freemasonry without joining the
A: Yes. The Grand Lodge of almost any state
information and lists of books which explain Freemasonry in detail.
They are the same books that Freemasons
read and study to learn more
about the Fraternity. And I hope that this short discussion may help
resolve some doubts.
Masons have neither horns and tails nor halos and
wings. Masons are simply your neighbors, joined together in a
which tries to help men become better people as to tries to
help the world become a better place through its charities.
It is, so
to speak, a "support group" for men who are trying to practice ethics
and morality in a world which does not
always encourage those ideals.
Freemasonry's teachings are acceptable to all religions.
They uphold the values of faith
in a secular world. Freemasonry is,
therefore, an organization for thoughtful Christians.