Is Masonry a religion?

Discussion in 'Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality' started by jonesvilletexas, Mar 12, 2010.

  1. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    Are you saying that M&D and FMfD are religious texts? If so, you are undercutting your position. :)



    No, only that our understanding of any document, including religious texts and VCR instructions, is based on common knowledge, morals and our own experiences. I dare say that a Martian has not played little league ball (maybe he has?). Take the baseline out and the text becomes words.


    Only academic. As a freethinking Mason, I have always questioned authority; which doesn't mean I never see the reason behind authority.


    Granted, freethinking is a mark of a Mason. However it is not the mark of organized religion. As I’ve said before, for a religion to be so it must be exclusive of all other points of view or beliefs. Hence the main basis for discounting Freemasonry as a religion.


    So are you saying that people would try to tag Freemasonry as a religion just to vilify it? I think I found them.


    Absolutely. Many of us are taught to hate what we cannot understand. This doesn’t mean we are hateful people, only that we are taught so as a defence mechanism.


    But why? Why specifically? If a religious nut forced you to defend this position academically, what would you say?


    First off, and perhaps most importantly, it is absolutely futile to try to convince a person immersed in religious dogma that he is wrong. It’s just too earth shattering and strikes too close to the heart. I would argue on two points. The first, that the Craft is inclusive and apart from formal exclusive dogma. Second, rather than try to defend the Craft, I would ask him to defend his assumption that the craft is wrong or evil. What makes a person hate? Hate is usually a by-product of anger, “I can’t stand this or that because it’s a threat to me and mine.†Anger is the only emotion that must be chosen, it isn’t spontaneous and usually results from one’s lack of control over a given situation (or an institution).


    Well, gotta run! I’m the WM of my lodge and we’re conferring a FC Degree tonight. I’ll be back later to see what has been written.


    Fraternally,


    Peter
     
  2. JTM

    JTM "Just in case" Premium Member

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    no way. i've already got my popcorn. i'm watching, not participating. enjoying the show, so to say.
     
  3. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    OK, I am back....where were we? By the way, we had a wonderful FC degree last night. My Officers and I were (don't wish to brag) on top of our game and it went just great!

    It seems to me that perhaps in my haste in my last post I got off on a tangent insofar as the last comment was concerned. Oh well, whatever.

    Peter
     
  4. dhouseholder

    dhouseholder Registered User

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    Nice, don't sweat it. It's funny you say this because, I couldn't read your post on Monday because I was out at a FC practice, and participated in the actual degree tonight! Talk about synchronicity, and the proper degree for this topic as well! :laugh:

    See, I beg to differ. The reason we do read is to understand the content of of the document. And if that document is reasonable and logical, then we should implement it in our own personal worldview or at least acknowledge the validity. (i.e. either religious texts or VCR user manuals)


    And this is what I think is the basis of Freemasonry NOT being a religion. I can't think of any religion that allows for multiple "truths". Buddhism actually does, but it is more a philosophy, not a religion.

    Agreed.

    So, if anything, can Freemasonry be a philosophy as opposed to a religion? On this I will ponder.
     
  5. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    I would accept that, although it's a fairly simple way of describing it. Freemasonry is much more but to the uninitiated it might be a more fitting way to put it then attempting to label it as a religion.
     
  6. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Just as we sometimes try to define today’s Masonry with the use of a speculative connotative lens looking to the past, so too we try to define religion with a connotative meaning that arguably differs from the past denotation.

    It is true that a Western societal definition of religion did at one time carry with it a requirement that one worshiped a G-d and that G-d was the one of the Old Testament; however, many no longer consider that to be true. As a society we now knowingly or unknowingly apply the title religion to many things that historically were philosophies or considered a pagan worship.

    Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (the original Buddha) never spoke about a G-d. He only spoke about self responsibility, or more accurately, what today would be considered perception psychology. It wasn’t until Pure Land Buddhism that an afterlife was discussed. The first Buddha didn’t ask his followers to pray to him; however, the second did ask them and that was one of the ways they could gain admission into the West or heaven.

    Taoism would also fit into this same sort of category. K’ung Fu-tzu, provides guidance for ways to have an orderly society, of which I personally agree with some points and other points I believe the end result usurps our western ideas of individual freedoms. The point here though, is it was a philosophy on how to live a life and now many consider it a religion.

    Take a look at Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma as it is also known. Some people used to consider these worshiper’s pagans. Hinduism is not one single religion but an amalgamation of different beliefs. G-d is manifested in numerous forms and many of the teachings are of a philosophical nature.

    As for Christianity, I won’t belabor the point. Most of us are well aware that there are many different interpretations of Christianity, even amongst those who basis is a triune G-d. Adherence ranges from philosophical to devout worship. In addition, many would argue that Free Will is a central requirement of faith of the Christian faith while others would not. Furthermore, those interested please see here for a completely different angle on Free Will:

    “The Incoherence of Free Willâ€

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rationally-speaking/200911/the-incoherence-free-will

    And,

    From a psychological perspective “Constraint propagation: A completely new take on soul.â€
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/200911/constraint-propagation-completely-new-take-souls

    If one pauses for a moment and reflects even on this short list, provided above, of what we declare to be religions today, there are some points we can surmise as to what isn’t required of a religion – based on that list:

    1. No requirement for a G-d.
    2. No requirement for a singular G-D.
    3. No life after death requirement.
    4. If life after death, it could include reincarnation.
    5. No set requirement for worship.
    6. No spirituality is required.
    7. Nor could I find a requirement that it required more than one person.

    The list could go on…

    If we try to remove any of those items in our definition, then that is exactly what it becomes; our own definition.

    As far as a definitive denotative meaning of religion, I would offer the following response based on the amalgamation and exclusion of things found in what, today, we call religion(s) based on the aforementioned list:

    Religion: “A personal or institutional authoritative dogma of cause or principle that is believed in and followed.â€

    So could Masonry be a “religion†to some?

    Let’s see what others have to say. The compilation of quotes below I gathered a long time ago from other sources. As one can see most of these are quotes from the source, however there are a few places where there are words outside of quotations and I can’t remember who authored those words so I am lacking the source to cite but it wasn’t me. If anyone knows who authored those please let me know so that I can give them their due credit.

    Albert Pike, “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion,†(M&D, p. 213). “Masonry is the legitimate successor from the earliest times, the custodian and depository of the great religious truths, unknown to the world at large, and handed down from age to age by an unbroken current of tradition, embodied in symbols, emblems and allegories,†(M&D, p. 210). “…the religion of Masonry…,†(M&D, p. 212). “It is the universal, eternal, immutable religion…in the heart of universal humanity…The ministers of this religion are all Masons…,†(M&D, p. 219).

    Albert G. Mackey, “Freemasonry is emphatically a religious institution; it teaches the existence of God. It points to the celestial canopy above where is the Eternal Lodge and where he presides. It instructs us in the way to reach the portals of that distant temple,†(The Mystic Tie, p. 32). “The truth is that Masonry is undoubtedly a religious institution, its religion being of that universal kind in which all men,†(Textbook of Masonic Jurisdiction, p. 95).

    Joseph Fort Newton, “As some of us prefer to put it, Masonry is not a religion but Religion - not a church but a worship, in which men of all religions may unite,†(The Religion of Masonry, pp. 10, 11).

    H. L. Haywood, “there is no such thing as a Masonic philosophy, just as there is no such thing as a Masonic religion,†(The Great Teachings of Masonry, p. 18). He asserts that Masonry has a religious foundation all its own and that its religion is universal (Idem, p. 99). Haywood would agree with Newton that, "Masonry is not a religion, but Religion."

    J. S. M. Ward, the author of several standard Masonic works, defines religion as a system of teaching moral truth associated with a belief in G-d and declares: “I consider Freemasonry is a sufficiently organized school of mysticism to be entitled to be called a religion.†He continues, “I boldly aver that Freemasonry is a religion, yet in no way conflicts with any other religion, unless that religion holds that no one outside its portals can be saved,†(Freemasonry: Its Aims and Ideals, pp. 182, 185, 187).

    T. S. Webb, “The meeting of a Masonic Lodge is strictly a religious ceremony. The religious tenets of Masonry are few, simple, but fundamental. No lodge or Masonic assembly can be regularly opened or closed without prayer,†(Masonic Monitor, p. 284).

    In addition, Illustrious Brother Rex Hutchens directed me to this definition of religion by Clifford Gurtz, an American Anthropologist:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theories_of_religion

    “Geertz saw religion as one of the cultural systems of a society. He defined religion as

    (1) a system of symbols
    (2) which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men
    (3) by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and
    (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that
    (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.â€

    And then there is this:

    “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things†(Philippians 4:8, King James Version)

    And last but not least:

    “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world†(James 1:27, King James Version).

    Does that sound familiar?

    So, could Masonry be a religion to some?



     
  7. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    For clarification, I thought I should add that I don’t personally believe that Freemasonry is a Religion nor was it ever intended to be a Religion. However, there are those that have made it such for themselves and try to get others to follow suit. This topic has been discussed for years, and at one point I simply began collecting data and compiling thoughts to better inform others of some of the arguments presented.
     
  8. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    Seeing the historical thoughts, maybe we can presume there aren't as many innovations in masonry as we might sometimes think :001_tongue:
     
  9. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Here is another take by Roscoe Pound. I think Pound well captured the approach each of these authors took toward Freemasonry. This can be found many places on the internet but I provided a link at the end as to where I just copied this from. There is an entire series about each of these authors in The Builder.

    THE BUILDER MAY 1915 - THE PHILOSOPHY OF MASONRY

    We come now to a radically different type of Masonic philosophy. To Preston, Masonry is a traditional system of knowledge and its end is to impart knowledge. Hence he thinks of the relation of Masonry to education. To Krause, it is organized morals and its end is to put organized mankind behind the universal moral ideas of humanity. Hence he thinks of the relation of Masonry to law and government. To Oliver, it is a mode of approach to God and its end is to bring us to the Absolute by means of a pure tradition. Hence he thinks of the relation of Masonry to religion. Pike gives us instead a metaphysic of Masonry. To him Masonry is a mode of studying first principles and its end is to reveal and to give us possession of the universal principle by which we may master the universe. Hence he thinks of the relation of Masonry to the fundamental problems of existence. In part this view was inevitable in one who thought and wrote in a country under the influence of the transcendental philosophy. In part also it was to be expected in a member of a profession whose philosophical ideas, so far as its leaders held any at all, were thoroughly Hegelian. In part it grew out of Pike's wide reading in the philosophical writings of antiquity and his bent for mysticism. Thus his philosophy of Masonry is a product of the man and of the time and we must look first at each of these in order to treat it intelligently.

    http://www.masonicinfo.com/pikesphilosophy.htm
     
  10. dhouseholder

    dhouseholder Registered User

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    While this is enlightening, I think this borders on what is known as an Ad hominem logical fallacy in which...

    Person 1 makes claim X
    There is something objectionable about Person 1
    Therefore claim X is false
     
  11. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Hi Brother,

    I don't know for sure, but I am thinking that you probably haven't read the full article written by Bro Roscoe Pound - relative to Pike.. The article is actually complimentary of Pike. Pound's writing style is normally very thorough and he disects the subject and then expounds upon it. He applied an equal hand in each article he wrote about each author. However, just as with Roscoe Pound's major contributions to our legal system some liked it and some didn't:)
     
  12. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    I might add that I personally like Pike but we know that a lot of things he wrote contained some errors and that he copied many things from many places and put into his writing. The new book coming out by Ill. Bros Art deHoyos and Rex Hutchens will provide for each page of Morals and Dogma the sources where Pike got the material. Pike in the intro to M&D states that 50% of the material was that of others and 50% was his personal thoughts on the topics. It was a huge undertaking much like what Mackey says about his own work on his encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
     
  13. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    I've been watching how this string is developing and though I still contend that Freemasonry is not a religion per se, I can see how the enormous volumes of masonic works might make some take it to heart religiously. I also think that one has to be somewhat critical and perhaps even leery of what was written in the past. It is true that in some respects Freemasonry has not changed and even though the landmarks of the Craft are unchangeable, they have been bent in multiple directions in the years since 1858. My point being that they were written in a different time by people who lived in a different world.

    Our definitions have changed over the years and the popular view of what constitutes a religion now is not what held true even 100 years ago. Nowadays, 5 hippies singing to a dead tree constitutes a tax exempt religion.

    Still, if you've read Morals & Dogma and survived without bleeding eyes, you're a better man than I.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  14. thehibster

    thehibster Registered User

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    I’m still new to Masonry, raised on February 24 this year, and I have been reading and studying as much as I can about our organization, but admit there is still much I don’t understand.

    The posts of the learned brethren on this forum have helped me to understand the definitions of religion, and when participating in the A.L.L. program the differences between a fraternity and a religion were expanded upon by the Lodge Counselor. I understand and agree that Masonry is not a religion, but what I do not understand is why we as Freemasons feel the need to so vigorously defend this point. What are the dangers in being confused with a religion?

    As I understand thus far, my goal as a Freemason is to improve myself and my relationship with my Creator in part by practicing the tenants of our fraternity; brotherly love, relief and truth. If nothing else, becoming a Mason has moved me closer to the core ideals of my faith.

    Freemasonry encourages its members to be good men and servants of their Creator and fellow man. What religion could do more? Unfortunately, organized religion is by nature divisive and inspires misguided men to hate others who do not embrace their faith, even to the point of killing one another. Freemasonry unites men of all faiths and charges them to work and agree with each other. Would I be crossing the line if I said that Freemasonry was better than religion?
     
  15. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    The dangers are many and wide. Let me elaborate on just a few:

    1. Freemasonry is universal and as such attracts men far and wide from a great many walks of life and religious paths. This is the feature that serves as a leveler of men. We all meet on the square with the cement of brotherly love and affection that binds us as a common band of brothers. This feature is essential to the Craft being what it is; to lose it would cause it to fall.

    3. As I've already stated, a religion must be exclusive to be a religion, "My religion is the only way to salvation." Again, this would negate the universality of the Craft.

    4. If Freemasonry were to be accepted by the members to be a religion it would validate the unjust criticism leveled by anti masons everywhere. It would open the proverbial "can of worms", who knows where that would lead?

    5. While we do have a lodge hierarchy, we do not have a central prelate such as a pope or archbishop or ministers to spread the faith and enforce religious doctrine. I suppose one could argue that the role of Grand Lodge is to do just such a thing, it is in reality more of an administrative system based on input of the membership through merit and election not divine power bestowal.

    6. The craft has evolved through the ages taking great care not to tread on the grounds of religion. While each and every member is encouraged to follow the precepts of his own faith, we are not concerned with the dynamics of that faith. We only convey a common system of morality, the "golden rule", which can be found in some form in all faiths.

    Yes, we do overlap on some common common ground found in all faiths but we do not endorse any of them, we hold all faiths upon which good and true men agree on an equal footing. This is a vital difference with religion and probably the strongest point which sets Freemasonry apart from any religion.

    I'm sure others on the forum are much more enlightened than I on this subject but in my small way, I hope that sheds some light on the differences and the reasons why Freemasonry can not become a religion. It would simply be the end of the Craft.

    Peter
     
  16. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    I think Brother Peter did a good job of outlining a number of the reasons. I believe it is wise to stay within the confines of the older western definition of religion otherwise as the earlier example I provided suggests religion becomes whatever someone wants it to be - which is fine for individuals I guess but not for Masonry as it changes the character of Freemasonry. Salvation, as defined by the acknowledged mainstream religions, is not found in Freemasonry. However, that is also part of the slippery slope where some want to claim that the internal work that we do in Freemasonry is the type of work that their religion requires them to do to bring about salvation. So, I would argue that the meanings we apply to words do count. One need not look simply at Freemasonry, just look at the world around us. Many things have been changed right under our own noses simply by changing the intended meanings and use of words.
     
  17. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    I agree with Brother Ronald, we must ever be watchful. I suppose that the craft has not done a very good job at defending itself and extolling what it truly is but that is changing.

    Peter
     
  18. dhouseholder

    dhouseholder Registered User

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    Not to resurrect a dead thread, but, I did just think of a pretty big religion that is also inclusive and does not have a formal exclusive dogma, Unitarian Universalists.

    http://www.uua.org/visitors/index.shtml
     
  19. PeterLT

    PeterLT Premium Member

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    It does appear that it is a home for the lost more than a religion. While I don't disagree or condemn any of their precepts, it does look more to me like a "Publisher's Clearing House" of religious and not-so-religious beliefs. Interesting as a quasi faith but not on the same level as Freemasonry. It does give the caveat that one could be refused admission into the Craft by virtue of being an Athiest, even though he belongs to a recognized religion.

    Interesting, good job digging that up. Shows thinking outside the box.

    Peter
     
  20. "Lewis"

    "Lewis" Registered User

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    "re·li·gion
       /rɪˈlɪdʒən/ Show Spelled[ri-lij-uhn] Show IPA
    –noun
    1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

    -Although this definition may be translated into a more modern meaning...
     

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