Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
Attacks on Freemasonry by outside sources are nothing new. We reprint hereunder an excerpt from an address delivered to the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts USA by the then Grand Master, MW Bro. Thomas S. Roy, DD. In view of the opinions currently being expressed in our own State by some members of the Clergy, the address is as topical today as it was when it was delivered in 1952.

At least two congregations within our jurisdiction, both of the same denomination, have interested themselves in anti masonic propaganda. They take the position that Freemasonry is opposed to their particular kind of religion, and that a man cannot be a mason and at the same time a good Christian. Our brethren know that their pastors who disseminate this propaganda are good men. They know that they are men of learning who have gone much farther than their parishioners in their study of religion and related subjects. They are not to be blamed therefore if they conclude that their pastors have information about¬religion denied them, which leads them to oppose Freemasonry. Thus their concern.

In a pamphlet under the title, "Does God want you to be a lodge member?" which was found in a church not far from Boston, I found the address of a religious publishing house which specialises in antimasonic literature. I sent some money, and in return, received some forty anti masonic tracts or pamphlets. They have been written, for the most part, by men who represent the ultraconservative wing of protestantism. The writers have not always been careful with the truth; at least they state as fact what has never been established as such. They forget that one of the ten commandments is, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour". They draw malicious inferences not at all warranted by a correct interpretation of the facts. They cite Masonic authorities such as Mackey and Preston, and identify the teachings of Freemasonry with the opinions of those men rather than with the moral teachings of Freemasonry itself. Incidentally, they know all there is to know about our obligations and our ritual. One of those pamphlets contains what purport to be the physical penalties of all the degrees Symbolic Lodge, The York and Scottish Rites. As you can imagine, their criticisms bear down hard on an organisation that seems to need the use of such imprecations. Inasmuch as some of those obligations seem to demand that the candidate promises to impose on others who betray the secrets of the Order the same punishment as he invokes on himself, it cannot be wondered at that Freemasonry is condemned by many.

Their sharpest criticism, however, is aimed at the apparently selective morality implied in part of our obligations. There was a time when men thought of themselves as obliged to do anything they could get away with in their business dealings with their fellow men. "Caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware), was the slogan. Under the conditions that then obtained, the obligation had some cogency. A mason had to be honest in his dealings with a brother mason. But there can be no double standard in ethical questions 'for masons today. A mason must be equally honest with all men, nor shall we protect the wrong doing of any. In this respect our practice is above our ritual. For in practice, not only will we not protect a brother mason in his wrong doing, but in unethical conduct we will bring charges against him and have him excluded from our fellowship if it can be proved that he has brought reproach upon the good name of Freemasonry. The action of this Grand Lodge in confirming the suspension of members, and at other times in expelling members for unmasonic conduct, is all the proof needed that this is true.

Freemasonry may lead in asserting and practising the highest in ethical idealism, but it must never be behind the accepted morality of any generation. It must be above suspicion and beyond criticism. Particularly we must not have our ritual trailing our practice.

These religious critics of ours are harsh in their criticism of the religious factor in Freemasonry. Their criticism takes this form: Freemasonry is a religion; it does not conform to the beliefs and practices of the Christian religion; therefore it is a false religion; therefore any person having membership in Freemasonry is guilty of promoting a false religion, and perforce is not worthy of membership in a Christian church. We have been ill served by some of our Masonic historians in this respect. In their zeal for linking Freemasonry with antiquity, they have almost concluded that similarity indicates origin. Mackey speaks of our af finity with the Elcusinian Mysteries of ancient times. He has given a phallic significance to some of our symbols. Freemasonry would be well advised to stick to its immediate origin, and not to try to satisfy the craze for antiquity that plunges us into a maze of conjecture that adds nothing to our prestige, and exposes us to the criticism that is not deserved in the light of our present ideals, goals and practices. We claim no direct relationship with pagan religions.

Unfortunately, some of the apologists of Freemasonry in other days have tried to establish the worth of the Order by making claims for it not consistent with its organisation and purposes. One of them made the statement that "Genuine Freemasonry is a pure religion". That is an unfortunate and misleading statement. But it has been taken at face value by these religious critics who proceed to show the kind of religion it is, and gives them the basis for their argument that Freemasonry is a false religion and therefore to be condemned.

Our answer to this is that while Freemasonry is religious, it is not even in the remotest sense a religion. We have prayers, it is true; invocations to deity. But Congress opens its sessions with prayer, and no one has ever suggested that our legislature is a religion. The Republican and Democratic Conventions opened with prayer and such prayers they were! But not even the most ardent member of either convention would call it a religion. Colleges have religious services, some of them daily Chapel, but nobody ever called a college or educational programme a religion. What it means is that these organisations, even as ours, are composed of religious people who believe that their religion should enter into all of fife.

We have none of the marks of a religion. We have no creed, and no confession of faith in a doctrinal statement. We have no theology. We have no ritual of worship. We have no symbols that are religious in the sense of the symbols found in church and synagogue. Our symbols are related to the development of character and of the relationship of man to man. They are working tools to be used in the building of a life.

Our purpose is not that of a religion. We are not primarily interested in the redemption of man. We seek for no converts. We solicit no new members. We raise no money for religious purposes. By any definition of religion accepted not qualify means that a man has not subscribed to a new religion, much less an antiChristian religion, when he becomes a mason, any more than when he joins the Democratic Party, or the YMCA. And there is nothing in Freemasonry that is opposed to the religion he brings with him into the lodge.

We are condemned because we say that a man may be obligated on the scripture of his own religion, and that we thus place all religions on an equality. But Freemasonry does not assert and does not teach that one religion is as good as another. We do not say that all religions are equal be by our critics, we canas a religion. All of which cause we admit men of all religions. We refuse to apply a theological test to a candidate. We apply a religious test only. We ask a man if he believes in God, and that is a religious test only. If we asked him if he believed in Christ, or Buddha, or Allah, that would be a theological test involving a particular interpretation of God. Belief in God is faith; belief about God is theology. We are interested in faith only, and not theology. We do not set ourselves up as judges of the qualitative values of the theological interpretations of God. When Freemasonry accepts a Christian, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, it does not accept him as such, but as a man, worthy to be received into the Order. We ask him to pledge himself by the highest and holiest loyalty in his life to be true to his vows. To ask him to vow on a book in which he did not believe would be the kind of hypocrisy condemned by the highest teachings of the Christian religion. To say that we reject Christ because we do not mention him would be as reasonable as to say that we reject the prophecies of Isaiah because we do not mention them. It is the glory of Masonry that a man who believes implicitly in the deity of Christ, and a man who says that he cannot go that far, can meet as brothers in their acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Supreme Being, the Maker of Heaven and earth, and in acknoweldgment of their duty to love him with heart and mind and soul and strength. They can unite in fulfilling the great purpose of Freemasonry, the development of human character, and the establishment of the collective life of mankind in brotherhood. In doing this we dare to hope that we are more than neutral in helping the church in its great task.

We are not a religion, and we are not anti religious. We are a completely tolerant organisation. We stand for the values that are supreme in the life of the church, and we are sure that he who is true to the principles he learns in Freemasonry will be a better church member because of it. Indeed, just the other day I heard the Rector of the largest Episcopal Church in another city say that he was a better Christian and a better Rector because of his Freemasonry. Freemasonry rightly conceived and practiced will enhance every worthy loyalty in a man's life. It will not weaken a man's loyalty to his church, but will strengthen it by the increased sense of responsibility to God and dependence on God taught in our ritual. It will not drain his strength from the service of the church, but increase his strength for the service of the church. It will not draw him away from the doctrines of his church, but stimulate his interest in the values of religion that enrich and ennoble the life of man.

As distinguished from the church or the synagogue, Freemasonry does not claim to know all there is to know about deity, and therefore makes no assertion of infallibility. Our quest is for light, more light, further light; for truth, more truth, further truth. Because we do not claim to have received full light, to have a monopoly of, or a corner on, truth, we can claim to be a tolerant group. We believe that there should be some place where men can meet without having to assert or defend the peculiarities of their doctrines. There should be some place where men can meet and know that their right to worship God in their own way is respected completely; a place where a man learns that the only respect he can claim for his beliefs is the respect he accords to the beliefs of others. There should be some place where men can face the realities of life and know that the only barriers that separate men are those of ill will and enmity. Freemasonry is that place, for it unites men in a unity that transcends the accidents of creed and class, a unity created by our common loyalty to the realities of religion as expressed by the prophet Micah twentyseven hundred years ago when he wrote: "He hath showed thee, 0 man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God".

The NSW Freemason, Vol 14, No 2, August 1981