Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Those outside of Freemasonry often ask the question: “Is Freemasonry A Religion?” Nothing will get a Freemason more uncomfortable than suggesting that Freemasonry is a religion. Many will give the party line: “we are not a religion we are simply religious.” Well, are you Christian? “No,” they reply. “We are open to all religions equally.” So, if, it is not Christianity, then it is another religion aside from Christianity. That part is clear! Whilst Freemasonry privately teaches the initiated that it is indeed a distinct religion with its own special teaching and its own unique god, outwardly it presents a more user-friendly message.
As Freemasonry has come under increasing attack from various Christians denominations in recent years, and as its membership has drastically fell, Masonic leaders have tried to distance themselves from the idea that Freemasonry is a religion. In an official statement released by the United Grand Lodge of England the Order directly addressed this subject, asking, “Is Freemasonry a religion?” It replied: “Freemasonry is not a religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation. A belief in God, however, is an essential requirement for membership and Freemasonry encourages its members to be active in their own religions as well as in society at large. Although every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world’s great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in lodge meetings.”
Many Freemasons get uncomfortable when confronted with the proposition that Freemasonry is a religion. Some even get uneasy with the suggestion that Masonry is religious. Are such deductions unfair about the Lodge? What is the truth? Is Freemasonry a religion? Rather than speculate or voice personal opinion, let us consider the actual internal evidence and determine what the facts really are.
Firstly, let us consider the definition of religion (from the online thefreedictionary.com). It is:
1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the internal nature of the Lodge would immediately acknowledge that Freemasonry perfectly falls within this definition.
Freemasonry’s public pronouncements to the uninitiated vehemently deny that the organization is a religion, but its internal teaching tells a different story. A careful examination of Freemasonry’s secret confessions reveals that the Institution internally considers itself a unique religion distinct to all other religions. In fact, there is little ambiguity in the higher degree teaching on this matter.
The Royal Arch degree declares, “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion and its teaching are instruction in religion.”
The Grand Elect, Perfect and Sublime Mason degree says, “It is the universal, eternal, immutable religion.”
The Prince Adept degree declares, “Masonry propogates no creed except its own most simple and sublime one; that universal religion taught by nature and reason.”
Here is indisputable evidence that Freemasonry is a religion. After all, this is its own internal teaching. By its own admission Freemasonry is a religion – only the ignorant or the deceived would deny such a claim. This is a classic reason why Masonry’s publics statements should be taken with a pinch of salt. They simply can’t be trusted. How can we expect a Mason to tell the truth when he has taken serious binding oaths upon himself (over threat of death) that he will never disclose the inner teaching and practices of the Order to the uninitiated?
Freemasonry’s own teaching confirms the fact it considers itself a religion. Some Masons argue “we are not a religion but a group of religious men” or alternatively “we are not a secret society but a society with secrets.” However, Freemasonry has all the component parts of any religion.
• Freemasonry has its own god or hero (Hiram Abiff).
• Freemasonry has its own beliefs and unique practices (found within within its secret rites and religious lectures).
• Freemasonry present an alternative plan of salvation (spiritual enlightenment through ritual initiation).
• Freemasonry claims to take its initiates from darkness into light.
• In some of the higher degrees Freemasonry serves communion, baptises its initiates and anoints its candidates with oil (that mock sacred Christian ordinances).
• Freemasonry has its own distinct places of worship (temples).
• Freemasonry has its own Christless prayers and hymns.
• Freemasonry has its own religious offices which are alien to the Christian Church and contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
Most of Freemasonry’s most famous and able exponents throughout the years (modern and olden) make great emphasis upon the fact Masonry is a unique religion. Their private Lodge books to the devoted are unapologetic about this fact.
Albert Pike declares in Morals and Dogma, “Every Masonic lodge is a temple of religion, and its teaching are instructions in religion…this is true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures.”
Albert Mackey says in the Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, “The religion of Masonry is non-sectarian. It admits men of every creed within its hospitable bosom. It is not Judaism, though there is nothing to offend the Jew. It is not Christianity, but there is nothing in it repugnant to the faith of a Christian.
J.S.M. Ward says in Freemasonry: its aims and ideals, “I consider Freemasonry is a significantly organized school of mysticism to be entitled to be called a religion…Freemasonry …taught that each man can by himself, work out his own conception of god and thereby achieve salvation…that thought these paths appear to branch off in various directions, yet they all reach the same ultimate goal, and that to some men, one path is better and to other, another.”
Mackey further argues, “Look at its ancient landmarks, its sublime ceremonies, its profound symbols and allegories – all inculcating religious doctrine, commanding religious observances, and teaching religious truth, and who can deny that it is eminently a religious institution…? Masonry then, is indeed a religious institution; and on this ground mainly, if not alone, should then religious Mason defend it.”
Frank C.Higgins maintains: “It is true that Freemasonry is the parent of all religions” (Ancient Freemsonry p. 10)
33rd Degree Freemason Norman Vincent Peale, says: “I consider Masonry to be the purest form of religion on earth” (Masonic Monitor, May 1992 pg.17).
Sir John Cockburn addresses the matter in Freemasonry: What, Whence, Why, Whither where he writes, “The question whether Masonry is a religion has been keenly debated. But the contest appears to be merely a war of words. Perhaps the best way of arriving at a conclusion would be first of all to enumerate the points which are common to most religions, and then to enquire in what respect Masonry differs from them. Religion deals with the relationship between man as his Maker, and instils a reverence for the Creator as the First Cause. Religions abound in observances of worship by prayer and praise. They inculcate rules of conduct by holding up a god or hero as a pattern for imitation. All true religions denounce selfishness, extol mutual; service if necessary self-sacrifice. It would be difficult to say in which of these characteristics that Freemasonry is lacking. Surely it abounds in all. Its ceremonies are elaborate, and are unsurpassed in beauty and depth of meaning. They are interspersed with prayer and thanksgiving. In no religion is the reverential attitude of the creature to the Creator more clearly displayed. A bright example of devotion to duty and of self-sacrifice in the path of fidelity. Is ever held before the eyes of the brethren. In what religion are the principles to be found nobler than those on which Masonry rests? Love to the brethren, relief to the distressed, and reverence to the God of Truth. If the title religion be denied to Freemasonry, it may well claim the higher ground of being a federation of religions. It is a form of worship in which all religions can unite without sacrificing a lot of their respective creeds.”
High-ranking Mason George H. Steinmetz writes in his book Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning, “The order has at all times been careful to explain that Masonry is not a religion. It has denied the fact over and over again, and insisted that it was a lodge or brotherhood, and in no way did, nor was it intended to, take the place of the church in a man’s life. It is claimed that Masonry is universal, its tenets such that they can be subscribed to by Christian, Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist alike, and all may meet in brotherhood at its altars. Has Masonry been too careful in its explanation? Too vehement in its denials? Has it so loudly proclaimed it is not a religion that its followers have been misled into thinking it is not religious? Has it been fearful of inadvertently stepping on the figurative toes of some creed, mistaking a creed for religion?”
He continues, “What is religion? The dictionary defines it as: ‘The recognition of man’s relation to a divine superhuman power to whom obedience and reverence are due; the outward acts and practices of life by which men indicate their recognition of such relationship; conformity to the teaching of the Bible, effort of man to attain goodness of God’. … In Morals and Dogma Pike offers the following definition: ‘FREEMASONRY is the subjugation of the human that is in man by the Divine; the Conquest of the Appetites and Passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle, and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory, when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear the well-earned laurels, is the true holy empire’.”
He exhorts Masons, “The time has arrived for Masonry to make its position clear, to not only admit, but rather to declare, that it is religious, even though it may well explain it is not a religion in the commonly accepted misuse of the word ‘religion’. An attitude to the contrary may have been excusable in the past, as the vast majority of Masons, ignorant of the esoteric teachings, were equally ignorant of the fact that those teachings constitute religion. This has never been true of the Great Masonic Scholars of the past, all of whose writings show their recognition of the religion of Masonry. What is religion? ‘Religion is the recognition of man’s relation to a divine superhuman power to whom obedience and reverence are due’. The Masonic Manuel states, ‘Freemasonry’s religion, if religion it may be called, is an unfeigned belief in the one living and true God’. The definition of religion continues, ‘The outward acts and practices of life by which men indicate their recognition of such relationship’. Paralleling this the Masonic Manuel continues, ‘[Freemasonry’s] tenets are brotherly love, relief and truth’. How more can one’s ‘outward acts and practices’ indicate recognition of the Supreme Architect of the Universe and the relationship to Him, than by brotherly love, relief and truth? Recognition of Him of all necessitates the recognition of every fellow man as a brother, demanding brotherly love, which encompasses relief when needed, and above all else, truth.”
Mr Steinmetz accurately explains the true meaning of Freemasonry. His exhortation is built upon fact. Freemasonry is indeed a religion with its own type of teaching. It is an oral tradition and its teaching is esoteric – that is – it is concealed from the masses by a veil of blood oaths, handshakes and passwords. In this it is unique top organised religion. In this it is an anathema to true Christianity.
Dr Mayer – a leading 19th Century Freemason – proudly stated in 1873, “this great art [Freemasonry] may rightly be called a religion. It defines the relation of the individual man to his Creator, to his fellow men, to himself; it develops man into perfection. Freemasonry is a faithful guide through life, with proper instructions to square our actions, and straight measures to keep us in due bounds with mankind. It teaches truth, recommends peace, and directs our attention to the very perishableness of all things. Is it not a religion? Religion! No, my brethren, we may rather call it THE religion! It is entitled to this sublime distinction, through its aim to make man’s life happy and godly and his death enviable and peaceful. It is certainly the true religion of mankind, its truth being obvious by its suitableness for all men, its applicableness to all ages, its unchangeableness under all circumstances, its harmonious working in all zones, and the privilege it grants to every man to entertain his own view of his Creator.” He continued, “Who is so blind and fanatical as to anathematise Freemasonry on so-called religious grounds? The religion of Freemasonry is within the reach of the Jew and Gentile, the Mohometan and the Hindu, the white and the black, the master and servant, the free and the captive, the rich and the poor – it is the religion of mankind, it is universal. A good Mason loves religion as a pleasant and useful companion in every proper place and every temperate occupation of life; but he hates religions as edifices constructed on prejudicial and superstitious traditions, fanatical propensities and clerical overbearing.”
Some modern Masons actually try and dismiss the idea that Freemasonry is even religious, arguing it is merely a fraternal brotherhood with moral teaching. If Masonry is not religious why does it have chaplains? If Masonry is not religious why does it have altars? If Masonry is not religious why does it have religious instruction in regard to man improving himself spiritually which is devoid of Jesus Christ? Why does it have its own unique prayers, hymns and odes that exclude Christ if it is not religious? Why does it have its own an imaginary religious hero called Hiram Abiff who is the center-point of your spiritual instruction if you are not religious? Why does it promise all its members a heavenly reward if it is not religious? Why it you call its meeting places temples if it is not religious?
In a moment of surprising candour, in a court case in 1903 involving a former member (a certain Robert Kopp), Masonic Grand Lodge admitted that Masonry possessed all the elementary traits of a religious body. They admitted: “The right to membership in the Masonic fraternity is very much like the right to membership in a church. Each requires a candidate for admission to subscribe to certain articles of religious belief as an essential prerequisite to membership. Each requires a member to conduct himself thereafter in accordance with certain religious principles. Each requires its members to adhere to certain doctrines of belief and action. The precepts contained in the ‘Landmarks and the Charges of a Freemason’ formulate a creed so thoroughly religious in character that it may well be compared with the formally expressed doctrine of many a denominational church. The Masonic fraternity may, therefore, be quite properly regarded as a religious society, and the long line of decisions, holding that a religious society shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction to determine matters of membership, should be deemed applicable to the Masonic fraternity.”
Freemasonry here admits publicly what every Mason knows inside: Freemasonry is a unique religion with its own distinct creed. It is not Christianity, but it is a subtle counterfeit of the same.
So, is Freemasonry A Religion? Absolutely! Freemasonry is a syncretistic religion, teaching as a central tenet that all roads lead to God. This interestingly enough is the teaching upon which the New Age Movement has been built. The Lodge embraces all religions in its ideology and membership. It views itself as the modern face of the ancient mysteries and expounds its beliefs by way of strange mystical fables. At the core of its theology is the legitimacy of all religions and the unifictaion of all into one all-embracing non-offensive user-friendly religion. All Masonic’s rituals and secrets, whilst veiled in scriptural, are highly anti-scriptural in precept and practice. Freemasonry is constantly forcing Masonic thought upon the sacred pages to suit its own ends. What results is another gospel that is contrary to the divine truth.
The only system of religion that God accepts or ordains is the true Church under the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:21-23, that God “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” This body, the Church, is the sole institution ordained of God for the proclamation and defence of the Word of God, and has Christ as its supreme ruling Head. Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). The Bible in I Peter 2:17 commands the committed Christian, “Honour all men, Love the brotherhood, Fear God, Honour the King” The King here is King Jesus. The great theologian John Gill, in expounding this passage, explains, “Love the brotherhood; or ‘your brethren’…. the whole company of the brethren in Christ, who are born of God, are members of Christ, and of the same body, and have the same spirit, belong to the same family, and are of the household of faith.”
The Masonic White Apron