Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Bro. H. L. Haywood
"Do you believe that Freemasonry is a religion? If it is, can a Mason belong consistently to his lodge and to a church? If it is not, why does it have so much in its Ritual about the Bible, and why do some of the organized churches oppose it as though it were a dangerous rival?"
The seasons themselves do not recur with more certain regularity, than comes this inquiry to Ye Editor's desk, nor is there any one subject that receives more universal discussion in the Masonic press. And neither, one may continue, is there any other inquiry that remains so unsatisfactorily answered, if one may judge from the reactions of the rank and file of Masons. There is a difference of opinion on the subject as universal as it appears to be lasting, and it may well be that Freemasonry will go on until the last candidate is raised in the last lodge without the question ever having received a plain and final answer.
The reason for this lies very close at hand. Religion itself is the subject about which men differ the most, both in theory and practice, and this confusion in the general mind inevitably makes its way into every discussion of the relation of Freemasonry to religion. Until men at large become agreed as to what religion is, or what it should be, or how it is to be used and practised, we must expect a wide difference of opinion as to what may be the religion or lack of religion of our Craft.
If by a religion a man has in mind an organized church, with its official priesthood, its authorized doctrines, and its sacraments, then Freemasonry is not a religion, for it has none of these things; but if religion is made to mean any form of teaching concerning the soul and its adventure through this life, and concerning God, then it may well be that Freemasonry is a religion, because it most plainly has something to say about these matters. But if, further, the word religion is not to be given either one of these definitions, but is made to stand for something special to an individual's view, then that individual must make up his mind about Freemasonry to suit his own theories.
According to the view of the present writer Freemasonry may be described as religious but not as a religion. The religiousness which lies in it is not something that is to be set apart as a thing by itself to function as the rival of some organized church but is to be interpreted as that groundwork of faith which lies at the root of all the creeds together. Just as a man must be a human being before he can become a citizen of the United States, so must a man have certain religious principles in his soul before he can become a Mason; and just as a citizen of the United States is free to live in any state in the Union, or even to live abroad, so may a Mason unite himself with any church he pleases. The religion that is in Freemasonry is not something that can be made the rival of any religion but rather is what lies at the bottom of all religion whatever (except of the savage variety) so that one finds Masons consistently belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church, or to a Mohammedan communion, or an Episcopalian church, or a Methodist, or to Christian Science, or what not. The teachings of the Craft are not such as can come into conflict with the doctrines peculiar to any one of these faiths but are such as all their communicants share in common. When the framers of the good old paragraph in Anderson's Constitutions said that the religion of Freemasonry is that in which all good men agree, they probably came as close to a final statement of the subject as we shall ever have.