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I undertake this task with considerable trepidation. Indeed,
were it not for a belief that it is sinful to be silent when
misunderstandings create pain and confusion, I would probably decline.
The world of Masonry is vast, complex, and rich, but it is small
compared to the immense sweep and scope of thought, faith, history,
and culture contained in the word Christianity.
As a professed and professing member of the Christian
(Disciples of Christ) Church, I have never found any conflict between
the Lodge room and the sanctuary. And indeed, as the Reverend Doctor
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.
Following are some questions often asked by those who are
not members of Masonry. The responsibility for the answers is my own,
although I have tried to draw from the best known and most respected

Q: Is Masonry a religion?

A: No, not by the definition 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
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
how he should pray or for what he should pray.
Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these
great questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other
house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual
development and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As
the Grand Lodge of England wrote in Freemasonry and Religion,
"Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering
in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith,
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?

A: Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a
definition for the word "temple" which is as good an explanation as
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
beautiful, to 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.

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
Unfortunately, just as mathematicians tend to write for other
mathematicians and historians tend to write for other historians,
Masonic writers tend to write for other Masonic writers. Many things
are never explained, simply because it is assumed the reader already
knows them.
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
goodness (not to be confused with the principles of salvation),
compassion, concern, love, trustworthiness, integrity, a sense of
"connectedness" with history-these are the elements of the Mysteries,
along with other schools of thought, preserved by Freemasonry. And
they 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
their 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
the United States. The ranks of Masonry have been and are
distinguished by many of the outstanding religious leaders of America.
A quick scan through the book, 10,000 Famous Freemasons, gives us
these names from history. Among many others are:

Rev. 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

Bishop 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.

Rev. Lansing Burrows, Civil War hero and Secretary of the
Southern Baptist Convention.

Rev. James C. Baker, who created the Wesley Foundation.

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
the United Methodist Church and holder of the highest honor, the
Grand Cross, conferred by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern
Jurisdiction, USA, writes: "My Masonic activities have never
interfered with my loyalty to and my love for my Church. Quite to the
contrary, 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
that Masons love and revere the Bible, nor is it a secret that Masonry
helped to preserve it in the darkest age of the church when infidelity
sought to destroy it. The Bible meets Masons with its sacred message
at every step of progress in its various degrees."
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."
But we are proud, as Masons, that members of all faiths
have found value in the Fraternity. Rabbi Seymour Atlas, 33, and
holder 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
righteousness for all."

Q: Is Masonry anti-Christian?

A: No. Masonry is not anti any religion. This charge is raised by
some anti-Masonic writers. Quoting Matthew 12:30 ("He that is not with
me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth
abroad."), they claim that, since Masonry does not require its members
to be Christian, we are actively anti-Christian.
First of all, a reading of the entire passage makes it quite
clear that Jesus was answering the Pharisees who were criticizing Him;
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
would say that they were, therefore, "anti-Christian". Masonry
encourages its members in their individual faiths. Masons do not
oppose any faith.

Q: Does Masonry have a hidden religious agenda or practice that
is known only to "higher" Masons?

A: No. The religious position of Freemasonry is stated often and
openly, and we've already mentioned it above. A Mason must believe
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 to
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
given in the early Masonic Degrees is incomplete or even misleading?

A: Again, it's a matter of Masonic writers writing to those they
assume have a background of appropriate knowledge. Another way
we say the same thing is "Masonry is a progressive science,
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
would be accomplished by starting with less complex authors.
Similarly, Masonry introduces the idea of ethics and morality, and
gives some practical instruction in each. But then it says to the
Mason, "We teach by symbols because symbols can be constantly
explored. Think about these things, read what others have written.
Only in that way can you make the knowledge and insight really
your own." Masonry tries very hard to raise questions, and to help
its members acquire the tools for thought-but we do not try to give

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,
as 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
entitled 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,
Persia-all over the world. It's easy to take a paragraph out of
context-as one writer does with Pike's comment about the Ancient
Egyptian belief in Osiris-and then insist that Masons teach and
believe that all good comes from Osiris. But a history lesson is
not 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,
Pike notes that, when we die, our bodies return again to the earth.
The minerals of which the body was composed may scatter far.
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
really wants to understand American government, he or she almost
has to read Madison's and Hamilton's Federalist Papers as well as De
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
all)-but none of them speaks for Masonry. He can only speak for

Q: Is there such a thing as a Masonic Bible?

A: No. The Bibles sometimes called "Masonic Bibles" are just
Bibles (usually the King James Version) to which a concordance,
giving the Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based,
has been added. Sometimes reference material on Masonic history is
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
in Masonry relate to the ways in which we can recognize each other.
The Ritual of Masonry, the Monitor, is in print and anyone can read
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 of secrecy
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
question that the friend will never tell anyone else or use those
moments of sometimes painful honesty against us in any way. As it says
in 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
in 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 you."
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
Christian belongs to a denomination which forbids all vows, such as
the Oath of Office of the President of the United States or the common
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.
Some anti-Masonic writers have complained about the so-called
"penalties" in the Masonic obligations. Those penalties are purely
symbolic and refer to the pain, despair, and horror which any honest
man should feel at the thought that he had violated his sworn word.

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, or
"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,
and 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 that moment
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
candidate comes 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
settings. The message of the 30th Degree is that man should think
about death (not avoid the thought fearfully) and realize that death
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
Illuminated. The anonymous author of the book wildly changed materials
wherever he wished-even some of the names of the Degrees are wrong.
Although the book is presented as a Ritual of the Masonic
Fraternity, you need only read through the author's introductory notes
or end notes to realize that he intends it as an attack on Freemasonry
which he calls "a tissue of fearful falsehood."
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.

Q: Is Masonry "guilty" of teaching toleration?

A: Yes. And proud of it! It seems a strange accusation, but
anti-Masonic writers often charge that we accept people with many
different religious viewpoints as Brothers. They are correct. Jesus
did 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."
When you consider what intolerance has produced in the world-the
Inquisition, the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem by the
Crusaders, the burning of Protestants at the stake, the horrors of
Hitler, the mass murders of Stalin, the "killing fields" of Cambodia-
it is hard to believe that toleration springs from the devil.

Q: Does Freemasonry teach that man can be saved by good works?

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
direction of brotherhood and moral improvement. Insofar as the Order
is successful in this aim, it is content, and leaves the member to
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, blind
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?

A: No. Except, perhaps, in the sense that, for a Christian, EVERY
act is an act of worship. Our meetings open and close with prayer.
Masons are encouraged to remember that God sees and knows
everything we do, and the Bible is always open during a Masonic
meeting. But it is a meeting of a fraternity, not a worship service.
And that brings up one of the most ridiculous charges
sometimes made against us-that our members are "really" worshipping a
demon or some pagan god such as Baalim, Baal, Osiris, Mendes, Pan,
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
In brief, during the Middle Ages, a military monastic order,
known as the Knights Templar, grew very wealthy. King Philip the Fair
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
the Knights 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.
So "Baphomet" wasn't the name of a demon, the Knights
Templar did not worship him/it, their "confessions" were obtained
under torture-and, at any rate, a false charge used to steal from and
murder military monks in A.D. 1307 has nothing to do with Freemasonry

Q: 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
Degrees" are secret worshipers of Lucifer. The historical fact is that
those words were written in 1894, three years after Pike's death. They
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
Episcopalian Christian.

Q: Can one learn more about Freemasonry without joining the

A: Yes. The Grand Lodge of almost any state can provide
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
fraternity 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.