Dr. Charles W. Sander

Isn't Freemasonry a separate RELIGION?

How many times have you heard that question? Why would anyone believe Freemasonry is a separate religion?

Many will tell you, "I heard that statement on an evangelist's radio program," or "I have read it in the antiMasonic books in the library."

That question has been answered again and again by competent people who know:

NO .... Masonry is not a separate religion!

It has been suggested that some non-Masonic persons may be confused as many times respected Masonic writers say that Freemasons are 'religious'. That is a true statement, but being religious is in no way to be considered as belonging to a separate religion.

My parents are very religious, but I don't believe that they have a separate religion. Any minister of the Gospel will fully agree that he is religious, while every one will quickly deny that he or she considers their teaching to be that of a separate religion.

How many times have you heard, "Masons have their own pathway to salvation which is through the performance of good works"?

In doing the research for this series of articles, and over the past quarter century in the journalism profession, I have visited and talked with hundreds of men who were Masons, and visited numerous Masonic Lodges. (As I am not a member of that fraternity, I have never attended any of their meetings where only members are permitted.) I have had the opportunity to visit with these men in all sections of the United States.

During this period I have never met a Mason who believed they have a separate path to salvation based on good works.

It is true that you will find the Freemasons' path well known for their work. Example: How do you explain the free hospitals for children? or their language disorder clinics for children? or their eye care programs?, or their homes for the elderly? or all the other Masonic charities?

The Masonic Lodge does not teach that member's personal salvation is earned by their good works. Masonry leaves it up to the individual Mason to choose his own path to salvation as he selects his own religious denomination.

Each member of Freemasonry is expected spiritual guidance from his own denomination, which he is encouraged to support with both his energy and his personal finances.

As the members attend various Masonic lectures, the Masons are told never to put their duties and responsibilities to the Masonic fraternity ahead of their duties and responsibilities to church, family, or country.

Yes, Masonry has many successful charities. Some are organized by the local Masonic Lodge, and others are individual acts of kindness as aid to a destitute brother, or to his. widow, and/or their children. A Mason is taught to make no gift that will adversely affect his duty to care for his own family.

Again I quote from John J. Robinson, one of the Nation's outstanding Masonic authors: "In the ceremonies and lectures that lead to a man being raised to the status of Master Mason, he hears no religious dogma. He hears no mention of Satan. He is told of no (Masonic) pathway to salvation for the simple reason there is none."

"But don't the Masons have their own Bible?" asked one lady.

How many times have you heard that question regarding the Masons? The only religious book 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.

"I have a friend who told me he was given a Masonic Bible."

What is a Masonic Bible?

It is usually a King James Version of the Bible, and contains a brief history of Masonry, or a concordance to relate certain Masonic ritual to scriptural passages. This "Masonic" Bible is usually given to new members of the Lodge.

Let me repeat what I wrote in the first article in this series: When a man decides he wants to become a Mason, he files an application of 'petition' with a local Masonic Lodge. In signing the application he asserts that he believes in God, the Supreme Being, and in the immortality of the soul. In the initiation rites of the first degree, called Entered Apprentice, he is told that how he chooses to worship God is up to his own conscience.

The only religious experience of the Masonic Lodge is prayer. Every meeting of Masons opens and closes with prayer. Every meal begins with prayer.

As it does so often (by the Federal Government for example — with 'In God we trust') all prayer is addressed (or should be) to God so that a mixed audience of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, for instance, can relates that prayer to their own worship.

Masons also offer prayers for charitable endeavors, for bereaved Masons and their families, or for a departed brother.

"If you really look at the Masonic Lodge with an open mind, you will clearly see that Freemasonry is not a religion," stated Bishop Robert McKewin of Marble Falls, Texas. (Bishop McKewin has been an active Mason for over 30 years.) "It promises no heaven or hell, and provides no means of receiving salvation. There is no 'witnessing' or arguing over religious beliefs in the Lodge. There is no religious dogma."

Some critics of Masonry have charged the Masons have their own God .... whose name is "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". Examples — The Almighty, The Creator, The Most High. If it starts with "The" it isn't a name. Masonry, as its name implies centers symbolically around the ancient builders of temples and cathedrals. It is natural for groups to fashion a description of God that relates to their interest.

"In the military, 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,'" remarked John J. Robinson.

Some people believe that in the third degree ritual that is part of the process of becoming a Master Mason, that Masonry teaches a Masonic resurrection. That simply is not true! In addition, I feel the individuals making that allegation know it isn't true.

"But since Freemasonry has a funeral service (for its members), isn't it a religion?" asked a young man.

Yes, the Masons do have a funeral service in addition to the religious service. Not in place of it.

Have you attended a grave-side service for a Marine? The Marines are usually in full dress uniform, they fire a volley of rifle fire into the air above the open grave. The coffin is covered with the American flag. A Marine officer or a personal friend may deliver a prayer and eulogy for the deceased brother, and commit his soul to a loving God.

Does this mean the U.S. Marines is a separate religion? The answer is, of course, a loud ... NO! It does mean a departed brother is honored by a group of brothers-in-arms.

"Did you know," commented one lady, "that the Masons take an oath of loyalty to the Lodge? They also place their Masonic symbols of the square and compass on top of the Bible. Isn't this a form of placing Freemasonry above God?"

The part of the Masonic program is similar to placing your hand on the Bible in court when you take an oath you are telling the truth. Does the higher position of your hand on the Bible mean that you are putting yourself above God?

Some people seem to feel Masons must be Anti-Christ because there are no symbols of Jesus in the Lodge room. Nor are there symbols there of any other religion. They would not be appropriate in a fraternal society.

Another Anti-Masonic allegation is based on the fact the masons teach lessons of morality which are illustrated with the tools of masonry the square, the compass, the setting maul, the level, the ruler, and the plumb line. These lessons relating to self-improvement are objectionable to some religious leaders because morality is being taught without specific reference to Jesus.

The Masons find no way to answer that complaint because it is based on the concept that without Jesus there is no such thing as moral teaching. Since most of the world's population is not Christian, Masons can only hope that position is wrong.

As you look at the state of anxiety we live in today, it seems wise to endorse the teaching of moral behavior by any means whatever.

I submit extracts from the following three letters which were written by qualified members of the Masonic Fraternity. Each of these men has passed through the three degrees of a Local Lodge. In addition they have all passed through the highest degrees of either the Scottish or York Rites:

"Freemasonry is not a religion, though in my experience, Masons have predominantly been religious men and for the most part, of the Christian faith.

"Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in tongue and action. As a result, men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. I think that a good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership in the Lodge."

— The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, 33rd Degree, 1025 5th Ave., New York

"Masonry is not a substitute for religion, or is it a religion. 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.

— Rabbi Seymour Atlas, 32nd Degree, Beth Kudah Synagogue, Wildwood, New Jersey.

"It is no secret that the Bible holds the central position as the great light of Masonry, 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.

"It is no secret that high above Masonry's steeple is the ever watchful and allseeing eye of Almighty God.

"Masonry respects every man's right to the religion of his choice. not a substitute for it."

— Dr. James P. Wesberry Exec. Director & Editor, Sunday, Georgia Baptist Center Atlanta, Georgia.

"Is Freemasonry a separate religion? I feel that material submitted in these first two articles in the series has provided the reader with adequate information to able him to THINK FOR HIMSELF!"

As you read and study the material already presented, and to be published in succeeding issues, you will be able to have a foundation of material to arrive at your own answer about the Masonic Fraternity.