Why does Freemasonry require a belief in God?

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by pointwithinacircle2, May 4, 2015.

  1. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    Why do you think Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being? Do you stick with the explanation given in the ritual that otherwise no oath would be binding on him? What is it about an atheist or agnostic that makes them unsuitable to be made a Mason?

    How is a man that believes in a Supreme Being different from a man who does not? Why is that difference important to Masonry?
     
  2. NY.Light.II

    NY.Light.II Registered User

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    As a person who has been a person of faith, no faith, and is now somewhere in between (believe in a God, but beyond that I run into roadblocks), I would like to take a stab (again, for those who do not know, I am not yet a mason, but will petition once I am 21) at this question.

    I think it is important to recognize that public masonry (via 1717) came out of a specific culture, time, and place. Within the context of a Christian kingdom, few people were publicly atheistic. Public atheism is relatively novel. This context provided, I think, a primary reason for this requirement.

    Second, tradition. Most of the Masonic documents available reference a Supreme Being/God either explicitly or implicitly, and when traditions are broken, fractions occur (GODF split, for example). Reactions to fractions have many forms, but most prevalent is the tendency for groups to harden their stance on issues that cause a rift. After GODF split, mainstream masonry defined itself by its fidelity to traditions/landmarks.

    Third, there is the stated reason you mentioned. The same reason in courtrooms people swear on the Bible is it serves, so the logic goes, as an impartial assurance of honesty (yet that honesty only depends on the integrity of the person).

    I don't think a man needs religion to be a good person, and I don't think a belief in God, however sincere, makes one person inherently "better" than another. I think Masonry requires belief because, with the above, there is an older (and IMHO, erroneous) understanding that the atheistic person cannot be moral, which is a steep indictment for a fraternity that prizes moral uprightness.

    Okay, I've said my piece.
     
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  3. MRichard

    MRichard Mark A. Ri'chard Premium Member

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    Yes, it is one of the tenets of freemasonry and a fundamental one at that.
     
  4. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    At least one French order of Masonry does not require a belief in God.

    I could argue that the concept of God is rather cultural and that belief in the Force or the Light has an equivalent relevance in the Masonic context: that of admitting obligation to a higher force/intelligence/entity. That admission implicitly requires acceptance that there is a greater pattern/plan for Existence that we are obliged to support.
     
  5. Keith D. McKeever Jr.

    Keith D. McKeever Jr. Premium Member

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    I honestly don't believe that one that believe in a Supreme Being vs the one doesn't defines the character of a person. I think that it has mostly to do with tradition. Our fraternity is based off "Faith”, "Hope", and "Charity." For an E.A., faith correspond with trust and confidence, especially in God or Supreme Being.

    My question would be, "What does an atheist or agnostic believe in?" "does an atheist or agnostic have faith?" "What generates ones faith?" "How can an atheist appreciate The Great Lights?

    I know that thru time things tend to change. There have been so many barriers broken but always found a way to salvage as much of the tradition that we know of? How do we change everything to account for those that do not believe in something higher than yourself?

    I'm still brand new to this, but I would like to know.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  6. Bill Lins

    Bill Lins Moderating Staff Staff Member

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    We don't.
     
  7. Roy_

    Roy_ Registered User

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    When I was looking to see if FM would be something for me and my girlfriend (yes yes, I'm irregular), I got backed off by the fact that Le Droit Humain apparently works without the GAOTU. This proves to be not entirely true. Both Le Droit Humain and my own (little) order have three rites, one of which is atheistic and in both cases this "French Rite" is by far the smallest one. In Belgium only 2,5% of all Freemasons are regular, the rest either has no GAOTU, no Bible or discuss religion and politics in their lodges. Now in my own country, the Netherlands, there is a (relatively) huge regular Grand Orient, but there is a very strong tendeny towards the Belgian-style "adogmatic" FM. Issue after issue the publication Thoth (for all Freemasons, not just those of the Grand Orient) publishes opinions in that direction. The reasoning is that when FM is: "a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols", there is no need for (defined) Divinity since an atheist has morals too.

    Personally I prefer not to see FM as "a system of morality" because I certainly hope we all aim for something higher than morality. Hence I opted for a lodge that does require belief in the vague "something higher" (not necessarily Christian, otherwise it would not have been my place afterall). Not because I believe people without such a faith are different, less or however you would call it, but because I want to work with people aiming higher than morality. People who want to be FM without Divinity have options as well.
     
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  8. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    Perhaps the statement is veiled in allegory and there is a hidden meaning.

    Hint: "working tools" is also a veiling.
     
  9. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    Perhaps there is an entirely different meaning associated with the word "Morality" that applies to what Freemasonry actually does!

    Hint: It's a Play on Words and a Word on Plays.
     
  10. Roy_

    Roy_ Registered User

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    Back ontopic then :)

    In Thoth 2014/1 there is an article by the Belgian Freemason G. de S. about "The dogma of (a-dogmatic) Freemasonry". He concludes that the belief in God is a dogma in all three versions of Andersson's constitutions (however it went from the Christian God to a Noachite God) (and this only became a landmark with Mackey). Because this clear requirement he calls "Anglo-Saxon FM "dogmatic". Later, what would be called "adogmatic" FM arose in France. De Soete's own Grand Lodge is that of Belgium (GLB, not to be confused with the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium). Towards the end of his essay he writes:
    The workplaces of the GLB labor in favour of the Grand Architect of the Universe and in the presence of the Book of Moral Law opened under Compass and Square, although the constitution of the GLB stipulates very explicitly that the interpretation of all symbols and the Grand Architect of the Universe and the Three Great Lights in particular, is completely free.
    The GLB is not very big in Belgium. It has 15% of the Belgin Masonic membership under its wings. The Grand Orient of Belgium (42%) is irregular as well and also calls itself "adogmatic". This 'freer' way of looking at things is getting hold of Dutch FM as well. It does conform with the idea that a Mason should be able to think for himself and certainly in continental Europe this seems to be the way things are heading.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  11. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    It can't be about being binding because that doesn't work when studied, so what must it be? Here's what I think it is -

    When each of us took our obligation we made promises to the divine. All brothers who came before did that as well. So we expect all candidates going forward to do the same.

    So it's about who we made our promises to not whether the binding works.

    Because the statement when limited to those words is explicitly incorrect, I do not stick to it. Statistically atheists and agnostics are have lower rates of immorality than theists.

    But in my mother jurisdiction there is one extra word - considered. That's an interesting extra word because that makes it not about the facts and not about the statistics. It makes it about feelings probably held by many before their education, and sure enough the statement appears in the first degree not the second degree.

    I have long been puzzled why this matter of feeling which is statistically incorrect is included in our degrees. By mistake by people who did not have access to the statistics? Probably. As a deliberate contradiction like not including women? Also probably.

    I was raised in a science oriented family were we were supposed to look it up and act accordingly, so I looked up the statistics and learned otherwise. But a lot of brothers are raised to believe that their morality comes from their faith, and as that is how they personally work to extend that opinion to others. The fact that the statistics don't bear the conclusion out does not change the fact that many are raised to believe that way.

    We have a system that takes into account a common teaching in society that does not survive study of the topic. The point were is it taken into account is before we teach a brother to stud topics. It is thus a culturally limited temporary point inserted into the lecture.

    Our contradictions are many. We are men of faith who led the world in religious freedom. We are members of on order that excludes women who led the world in equal treatment. We use elections to select our leaders then they are dictators during their terms. We consider oaths more binding on men of faith than on others, not because the statistics work out but because so many of us were raised in a society that teaches it that we use the stance as an unlevel starting point on which to study it level to build a stable superstructure.
     
  12. dalinkou

    dalinkou Premium Member

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    What statistics were measured, and when?
     
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  13. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member

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    An agnostic acknowledges the fact that he has nothing but faith. That is an important point, and it misunderstood by a great many. Agnosticism is not "doubt". It is, literally, the absence of knowledge. So the answer to the question, "What does an agnostic believe in?" is "Anything he chooses to believe in."

    This is quite different from the atheist's belief that there are no gods. And make no mistake, the atheist has chosen this belief just as each of us has chosen his own belief that their is/are god(s). Oddly, most of the atheists I've known will stubbornly insist that their belief, in something that is unknowable, is more "rational" than any contrary belief. In other words, while the atheist denies he has any "faith", he still has his "beliefs".

    What generates faith? Lots of things, usually, but when it comes to faith, it must be a choice.

    And, of course, an atheist can not appreciate the Great Lights. The path of a Mason is one that leads to enlightenment. Without that illumination and guidance provided by the things those symbols represent, that path could never completely leave the darkness.
     
  14. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    1) Faith - a Choice to believe in a Possibility, no matter how improbable or lacking in evidence for or against.
    2) Hope - Probability; a Choice to hold on to the Probability of that Possibility, no matter how slim the chance.
    3) Agape - a Choice to Invest in that Possibility.

    These are not exclusive to only those who believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all present being.

    1) Square - A man's WORK (far too many Brothers don't realize this!)
    2) Compasses - A Man's RELATIONSHIPS
    3) Sacred Volume (represented by the Letter G) - A Man's Immutable and all Governing LAWS

    None of what these represent are exclusive to only those who believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all present being.
     
  15. LAMason

    LAMason Premium Member

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    I will be the first to admit that I am not a great thinker and take most things literally, so often “veiled allegory” is lost to me even with hints. That said, I also do not believe everything in Freemasonry is “veiled allegory” and many times it simply is what it is.

    I personally like this explanation:
    [​IMG]
    http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/freemasonry-supreme-being.html
     
  16. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to this thread. It has been fascinating to read the replies and consider the different viewpoints on this topic.

    This morning I was studying about the evolution of civilization from hunter/gatherer societies to farming societies and I came across an interesting quote that may bear on this subject. The statement was made that "as civilization evolved the central purpose of society changed from ensuring the individuals physical survival to protecting their psychological well being". Part of what provides security to the self, to the psychological part of us, is identification with the group. And the group/groups with which we identify determines who our "self" becomes.

    So, acceptance of the G.A.O.T.U. may be seen as a test of belonging. It may be a way of asking the candidate "are you in the right place? Do you wish to conform to the standards of this group?". At the same time we are informing the candidate of the standards of Masonry. We are saying "We are men who live our lives according to a standard of morality determined, not by ourselves, but by a power greater than ourselves".

    And finally, there is the effect that reverence for something greater than myself has on that part of myself that the Greeks called the Psyche. Today this might be referred to as the self, or as one's beliefs or personal psychology. It is the search for the answer to the question "how do I fit in the world?" and ultimately the question "who am I?". I think that finding answers these questions requires a lot of guidance, and to find correct answers it must be the right kind of guidance. Perhaps ultimately that is the purpose of Freemasonry, to offer the right kind of guidance to those who seek it.

    Whew! I have really begun to wax philosophical. I had better stop here. Thanks again for all your contributions.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2015
  17. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    Crime rates among atheists and agnostics have been lower than crime rates among members of religion for as long as such statistics have been gathered.

    Whether this is, is a matter of gathering the data and adjusting for biases that favor religious activity after conviction. Why this is, sends us into discussions of religious policies and is thus not appropriate in our forums. The topic does quickly lead to why specific sects object to Masonry where most do not.
     
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  18. LAMason

    LAMason Premium Member

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    Without seeing information on the validity and reliability of studies, who performed the studies and the design of the studies; I am skeptical of the results.
     
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  19. Roy_

    Roy_ Registered User

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    I just think of something I am not sure you all know. In the initial Rite of Le Droit Humain, the Bible was prepared by the Declaration of Human Rights and 'human rights' is exactly what Le Droit Humain means. Outside regular FM there are now lodges who have either the Declaration or the constitution of their order to swear the oath on. I have not yet experienced such an atheistic Rite yet, but I would certainly not have sworn my oath on either of the two latter options. Yet, one can still argue if a Freemason who did swear his (/her) oath on either alternative, would be less able to work on himself and the world.
    I guess it is a matter of preference and for those who hold the possibility of other-than-regular FM open, there is something to choose.
     
  20. NY.Light.II

    NY.Light.II Registered User

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    Important to keep in mind in this discussion is that Atheism is on the rise and has been for at least the last decade.
     
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