Is Freemasonry a Religion?
By: John Robinson
Bro. John J. Robinson's last book was A Pilgrim's Path. In this book
Bro. Robinson responds to numerous religious criticisms of Freemasonry as
well as writing about the "Evangelist Mentality." We are printing several
STB's as a series to help our readers have a response to some of the
misleading, inaccurate, and often times untrue statements made by the
religious extremists against Freemasonry! (The title Is Freemasonry A
Religion? is from a chapter title in the book.)
A Pilgrim's Path, by John J Robinson, was published in 1993 by M
Evans & Co., Inc. in New York City. the book is available in many bookstores
or can be ordered through your, local bookstore using ISBN O-87]3I-732-X
I've lost count of how many times I have been asked, 'isn't Freemasonry a
separate religion?" It's a question that creates a question: "How in the
world did anyone come to believe that Masonry is a religion?" When I ask
that, I am usually told by the caller'; that they heard the charge on an
evangelist's broadcast, or read it In an anti-Masonic tract or book No one
who has asked me the question has claimed to have come up with the notion
from personal knowledge or experience.
The basic question has been addressed over and over again. "No, Masonry is
not a religion. It has no intention of being a religion. It doesn't want to
be a religion". But those replies rarely have any impact on non-Masons for
the simple reason that the defense of Masonry is usually directed at other
Masons, not at the masses who are the targets of the anti-Masonic
evangelists. What is obviously needed is a broader audience for the defense.
One point that is confusing to many is the frequent statement by Masonic
writers that Freemasons are "religious." They are, but being religious in no
way carries with it the concept of being part of a separate religion. My own
parents were very religious, but I really don't believe that they were a
separate religion. Any minister of the gospel will agree that he is
religious, but every one will deny that he considers his teachings to he
those of a separate religion.
Usually, the allegation that Masonry is a separate religion is helped along
by one or more blatant falsehoods--for example, the charge that Masonry has
its own path to salvation, through the performance of good works. I never
met a Mason who believed that, or who would he able to understand how anyone
could ever draw such a conclusion. In practice, it is a handy point for
anti-Masons, who are frequently confronted with, "But if the Masons are such
evil people, how do you explain their free hospitals their language-disorder
clinics for children, their eye-care program, their homes for the elderly,
and all those other Masonic charities?"
The anti-Masonic answer comes back as, 'The Masonic charities are not
beloved of God because the Masons teach that good works are the way to
salvation. That makes those charities against the will of God:' That's sick,
but it's what some of them say.
Masonry leaves it up to the individual Mason to choose his pathway to God,
and that policy naturally includes no rules, advice, or admonitions as to
the means of salvation. The Mason is expected quite properly, to get that
spiritual guidance from his own denomination, which he is encouraged to
support with both his energy and his personal finances.
Time after time in various lectures, the Freemason is told never to put his
duties and responsibilities to the Masonic fraternity ahead of his duties
and responsibilities to his church, to his country, and to his family. As
for Masonic charities, whether they are organized major efforts or
individual acts of kindness (such as aid to a destitute brother, or to his
widow and their children), the Mason is told to make no gift that will
affect his duty to care for his own family In the ceremonies and lectures
that lead to a man being raised to the status of Master Mason, he hears no
description of heaven or hell He hears no religious dogma He hears no
mention of Satan. He is told of no Masonic pathway to salvation for the
simple reason that there is none.
The only religious item in the Masonic lodge is the holy book of the
initiate's own faith. Since most Masons are Protestant Christians, that book
is usually the King James version of the Bible. The initiate may be given a
Masonic Bible by his lodge, his friends, or his family, but it varies from
other editions of actual Scripture by not one single word. It is only a
'Masonic" Bible because it also contains a brief history of Masonry, or a
concordance to relate certain Masonic ritual to scriptural passages. Masons
who are not Protestants bring their own holy books for their initiations.
Let's start at the beginning: When a man decides to become a Mason, based on
what he has seen, heard, or experienced, he files an
application, or "petition," with a local Masonic lodge. In signing that
petition he asserts that he believes in God, the Supreme Being, and in the
immortality of the soul. In the lecture accompanying the initiation rites of
the first degree, called Entered Apprentice, be is told that how he chooses
to worship God is up to his own conscience,
The religious experience in the lodge is prayer. Every
meeting of Masons opens and closes with prayer. Every meal begins with
prayer. As is done so often by the federal government (as. for example, with
"In God we trust"), all prayer is addressed (or should be) to God the
Father, so that a mixed audience of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and
Buddhists, for instance, relate that prayer to their own worship. Masons
also offer prayers for charitable endeavors, for bereaved Masons and their
families, or for a departed brothers.
Clearly, one can easily assert that Freemasonry is not a
separate religion. It promotes no heaven, no hell, and no means of
salvation. There's no "witnessing" or arguing over religious beliefs in the
lodge. There is no religious dogma. It can't be a religion.
Nevertheless, it is frequently charged that the Masonic
lodge has its own God, whose name is "The Great Architect of the Universe."
That Masonic term is not a name; it is a designation or reference, as are
all terms beginning with the word "The": The Almighty, The
Creator, The Most High. If it starts with "The," it is not a name. So
why do the Masons use that designation?
Masonry, as Its name implies, centers symbolically around
the ancient builders of temples and cathedrals. It is natural for groups to
fashion a designation for God that relates to their interests. In the mili-
tary, I attended an outdoor church service conducted by a visiting chaplain,
an ordained minister He referred to God as "Our Supreme Commander-in-Chief
in heaven." The Masons often do refer to God as The Great Architect of the
Universe, but what's wrong with that? The architect is one who plans and
brings a structure into being. Historians refer to the Founding Fathers as
the "architects of the Constitution." As a designation for God, The Great
Architect of the Universe makes sense, and it means precisely the same thing
as the universally popular "The Creator." The slight difference is that the
Masonic designation implies that God created the world according to a plan,
although there is no Masonic description of what that plan may be.
*Judeo/Christians use the Holy Bible Other faiths may use
their Holy Book,
This Short Talk is the third in a Series from John
Robinson's book: A Pilgrims Path The first two are: 8-97 Fundamentalist
Fury-Part I 10-97 The Media Mogul-Part II