MASONIC Digest Monday, 22 Jan 1990 Volume 2 : Issue 3 Today's Topic: Special Issue: Religi

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MASONIC Digest Monday, 22 Jan 1990 Volume 2 : Issue 3 Today's Topic: Special Issue: Religious objections to Freemasonry. Send all submissions and requests to ptrei@asgard.bbn.com. (From enet: DECWRL::"ptrei@asgard.bbn.com") MASONIC digest is moderated. Please remember: THIS IS A PUBLIC FORUM - YOU MUST ASSUME THAT MOST READERS ARE NON-MASONS. Please include a relevant subject line, and cover one topic per message. If you require anonymity, say so at the top of your message (and give a nom-de-net). All contributions remain the property (Copyright 1990), and responsibility of the authors, and may not be diseminated beyond the list without their express permission. My own comments remain mine (Copyright 1990 Peter Trei), and represent only my views at the time of posting - not neccesarily those of my employer, or of any Grand Lodge. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- From: ptrei@asgard.bbn.com (Peter Trei, moderator). Date: 22 Jan 1990 Subject: Administrivia - Missing mail. Over the last week the VAXcluster which includes Asgard was upgraded from VMS 4.7 to 5.2. This upgrade has had some problems, and I have been unable to see my mail since Tuesday the 16th, until today, the 22nd. Although It *looks* like I've received all my mail, I'd appreciate it if any mail sent to me since the 15th was resent, unless it concerns this issue. yours, Peter Trei, moderator ptrei@asgard.bbn.com ------------------------------ Explanatory note from the moderator: This is a special issue of Masonic Digest. Mr. Tom Albrecht has asked to describe his religious objections to Freemasonry, and after carefull consideration and consultation, I have decided to let him go ahead. If this topic offends you, please do not continue reading this issue. I am very concerned about starting a religious flamewar, and will severely curtail discussion on this topic. On the other hand, I feel that Masons need to respond to this type of objection, which we are receiving with increasing frequency. In this issue, I present Mr. Albrecht's letter, along with two USENET posts to set up the context. My explanatory comments are marked with asterisks in the left margin. I have not tried to confirm his quotes, except the Biblical ones. I will post responses in a later issue (not neccessarily the next one). I do *not* intend to post responses to responses, responsesª3, etc. If you wish to follow up further, please do so through private mail. When responding, I think it may be helpful to bear two things in mind: 1: Whom are you addressing? Are you trying to convince Mr. Albrecht that Masonry should be acceptable to him and his denomination? This is a possibly impossible task, since faith is notoriously impervious to reason. Are you trying to convice non-Masons that his arguments are flawed? Or are you simply explaining why they do not convince *you*. 2: Are you discussing errors in his interpretation of Freemasonry, or are you disagreeing with his particular flavor of Christianity? ½The above assumes that you disagree with him. Remarks in support, or from non-Masons are also welcome| I'm going to moderate for a low flame level. Ad hominem attacks impress no one. As always, I'm willing to strip identification if desired. Some people may desire this so that their membership in particular faiths or denominations remains a private matter. PLEASE try to minimize quoted text. Peter Trei (moderator) Senior Deacon Wilder Lodge Leominster, MA. ptrei@asgard.bbn.com ---------------------------------------------------------------------- * On December 1, 1989, the following appeared in soc.religion.christian * (a USENET newsgroup): ------------------------------ From: dsac!dcscg1!drezac@cis.ohio-state.edu (Duane L. Rezac) Subject: Christianity and Freemasonry Date: 30 Nov 89 08:37:02 GMT I'm looking for information on the compatability of Christianity and Freemasonry. I have a relative that is in Masonry, and I know that sometime in the near future we will have a conversation about it, So I'm starting to do some research. I would like to hear comments on this subject from both sides, preferably with Scripture references. Duane L. Rezac dsacg1!dcscg1!drezac drezac@dcscg1.dcsc.dla.mil ½I am not a Mason, so I'm in no position to make detailed comments, but let me at least caution that it may be hard to developed a position about "Masonry" as a whole. There are a number of traditions that have masonic roots. Some of them have rather different attitudes towards religion and Christianity. It may be more fruitful to ask what kind of practices might or might not cause trouble, so as to help someone decide whether their participation in a particular group was appropriate for them. --clh| ------------------------------ * ½"clh" is the moderator of s.r.c| * * Over the following weeks several replies appeared, some with * accurate information, many more with outdated or incorrect ideas, none * from Masons (there was one poster in the OES). I finally posted the * following: ------------------------------ From: Peter Trei (ptrei@asgard.bbn.com) Subject: Freemasonry and religion. Date: 21 Dec 89 19:51:13 GMT Hi! I've been lurking on this newsgroup for quite some time (it's rather difficult for me to post). I may be able to shed some light on the topic of Freemasonry, being a Master Mason myself. >> From: conan@wish-bone.berkeley.edu (David Cruz-Uribe) >> All Catholics are forbidden to belong to the Masons or any allied >> organization. The reasons for this ban have to do with the history of >> European Freemasonry. Masonic lodges in Europe had a sinister edge >> which often combined with anti-clerical politics. > From: jhpb@lancia.garage.att.com > The ban also has to do with what Freemasonic principles are all about. > They're inimical to Catholicism. According to the classic papal > encyclical on Freemasonry, Humanum Genus, Freemasonry is based on an > error called Naturalism. Basically, a denial that the supernatural > exists. Three errors here. 1. We are not anti-clerical. Far from it, we require a stated belief in a Supreme Being from every candidate before he can be made a Mason. We are somewhat ecumenical about it - There are Masons of all faiths. This notion that the Masons are anti-clerical arises from the existance of a schismatic group (the "Grand Orient"), based in France. This relatively small group dropped the requirement of faith, removed the Bible from their lodge rooms, and became politically active. For this (among other things) the other Grand Lodges withdrew recognition from Grand Orient in the 1870's, and it has been shunned by all regular Masonic groups ever since. 2. We are no longer (total) anathema to the Catholic Church. Since 1983 it has been permitted for Catholics to join the Masons, at least in North America. 3. The Pope erred when he accused us of Naturalism. As I have stated, a prior belief in Deity is an absolute requirement for membership. Good churchgoers make better Masons and Masons tend to become regular churchgoers. Without the existance of something beyond the grave, Masonry would be meaningless. > From: MATH1H3@uhvax1.uh.edu (David H. Wagner) > As I understand it, Freemasons, in theory, believe that all religions > teach an aproximation of the true faith, but that they of course have > true understanding. They accept the Bible, the Koran, and other holy > books as revelations of God, whom they call the Great Architect of the > Universe. In a sense Freemasonry is a precursor to the modern > ecumenical movement. This is also incorrect. The following pamphlet, from the Grand Lodge of England in 1985 (the oldest Grand Lodge in the world, and highly respected), puts the situation better than I could: ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Freemasonry and Religion Introduction In the light of recent comments on Freemasonry and religion and inquiries to be held by various churches into the compatability of Freemasonry and Christianity, the Board has decided to issue the following statement in amplification of that originally approved by Grand Lodge in September 1962 and confirmed by Grand Lodge in December 1981. Basic Statement Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It demands of its members belief in a Supreme Being, but provides no system of faith of its own. Its rituals include prayers, but these relate only to the matter instantly at hand and do not amount to the practice of religion. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at its meetings. The Supreme Being The names used for the Supreme Being enable men of different faiths to join in prayer (to God as they see Him) without the terms of the prayer causing dissension among them. There is no Masonic God; a Freemason remains committed to the God of the religion he professes. Freemasons meet in common respect for the Supreme Being, but He remains Supreme in their individual religions, and it is no part of Freemasonry to attempt to join religions together. There is therefore no composite Masonic God. Volume of Sacred Law An open Volume of Sacred Law is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of Sacred Law to a Christian is the Bible; to Freemasons of other faiths it is the book held holy by them. The Oaths of Freemasonry The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on or involve the Volume of Sacred Law. They are undertakings to keep secret a Freemason's means of recognition and to follow the principles of Freemasonry. The physical penalties are simply symbolic. The commitment to follow the principles of Freemasonry is deep, and entirely appropriate to this form of obligation. Freemasonry Compared with Religion Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: a. It has no dogma or theology (and by forbidding religious discussion at its meetings will not allow a Masonic dogma to develop). b. It offers no sacrements. c. It does not claim to lead to salvation, by works, secret knowledge or any other means (the secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with salvation). Freemasonry Supports Religion Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place his duty to God (by whatever name He is known) above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- I hope that clears some things up. If you'd like an analogy, the Boy Scouts is an organization which takes a somewhat similar stance but which is more familiar to most. Scouts must be reverent, obey the Scout oath, and work together with Scouts of all faiths in a worldwide brotherhood. Eagle Scouts in the Order of Arrow are expected to keep secrets. ½And to answer another question that's come up in this newsgroup: I can find absolutely zero evidence that Scouting and Masonry are connected - Baden-Powell does not seem to have been a Mason, and we have our own group for boys: The Order of DeMolay.| go with God (and merry Christmas) Peter Trei Senior Steward Wilder Lodge F&AM Leominster, MA. ptrei@asgard.bbn.com PS: If anyone wants to discuss this further by email with me, please feel free. -- pt ½disclaimer: The above are MY opinions, and do not neccesarily represent those of my employer or any Grand Lodge| ------------------------------ * There immediately appeared a reply from Mr. Albrecht, to the * effect that his denomination (Presbyterian Church in America) had * studied the matter, and came to the conclusion that Freemasonry was a * religion, incompatible with Christianity. He offered to send a copy of * this study to anyone who asked. I wrote him asking him for it, (thanks, * Tom!) and also put him on the digest mailing list. * * Mr. Albrecht soon sent me a message for the digest which * declared his denomination's stance, and asked varous questions which * I felt were inadvertantly intrusive and offensive. For these reasons * I rejected it, but asked him to rephrase his message to be more specific * of the conflicts he and his denomination perceived. * * He has replied at length. ------------------------------ From: IN%"tom@dvnspc1.Dev.Unisys.com" 13-JAN-1990 00:02 To: PTREI@asgard.bbn.com Subj: Masonic digest article ½Peter, I sent this to soc.religion.christian for posting. If you think it is appropriate, you may (edit and) post it to your digest.| Here is a biographical sketch for the other readers. My name is Tom Albrecht. I am not a Mason, nor a member of any fraternal society other than the Christian church. I am a Presbyterian elder, married with 6 children (for now). My interest in Masonry is limited to contacts that I have had with Masons (my father-in-law is a Mason, though not "practicing"), and the effect Masonry has had on various Christian denominations (see my later quote by E.A. Coil), including my own. In my own life, and I believe the life of every Christian, the scriptures of the Old and New Testament should be the supreme authority on matters of religious faith and practice. In fact all areas of the Christian's life must come under the direct scrutiny of the word of God. This is the principle reason why I could not, in good conscience, be a Mason. I believe the tenets of Freemasonry are contrary to the precepts of Christianity. ------------------------------ The question before us is whether Freemasonry is compatible with the Christian religion. I will be quoting from a study report produced by my denomination, The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) as well as a study produced by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). I will be happy to send a copy of the PCA study anyone who asks. In soc.religion.christian, Peter Trei (ptrei@asgard.bbn.com) wrote: >The following pamphlet, from the Grand Lodge of England in 1985 (the >oldest Grand Lodge in the world, and highly respected), puts the >situation better than I could: ½quoting from _Freemasonry and Religion_| >Basic Statement > > Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for >religion. It demands of its members belief in a Supreme Being, but >provides no system of faith of its own. Its rituals include prayers, >but these relate only to the matter instantly at hand and do not >amount to the practice of religion. This is arguable. An examination of the source documents of Freemasonry could lead one to a different conclusion. For instance: 1) Henry Coil (_Masonic Encyclopedia_) under the topic of religion says, "Some attempt to avoid the issue by saying that Freemasonry is not a religion but it is religious ... It would be as sensible to say that man had no intellect but was intellectual or that he had no honor but was honorable ... Freemasonry certainly requires a belief in the existence of, and man's dependence upon, a Supreme Being to whom he is responsible. What can a church add to that, except to bring into one fellowship those who have like feelings? That is exactly what the lodge does." 2) J.F. Newton (_The Builder_ ½sic. This is _The Builders_ PT|) said, "Masonry ... is religion, a worship in which all good men may unite, that we each may share in the faith of all." Newton apparently deplored the fact that the nature of many lodges was changing. He complained that there were many within Masonry who regard it as "a mere social order inculcating ethical ideals and practicing philanthropy." (_The Religion of Freemasonry_, pp. 10,11) 3) A.G. Mackey (_Encyclopedia of Freemasonry_, Vol. 2, p. 847) said, "We contend, without any sort of hesitation, that Freemasonry is, in every sense of the word, except one, and that its least philosophical, an eminently religious institution - ..." He also wrote, "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) In another place Mackey wrote, "The truth is that Masonry is undoubtly a religious institution, its religion being the universal kind in which all men agree." (_Textbook of Masonic Jurisdiction_, p. 95) "When some Masonic authorities say Freemasonry is not a religion they mean it is not a particular faith, creed, denomination, or sect." (PCA, p. 2004) Freemasons meet in temples, they offer prayer, they have alters, they have symbols and rituals of a religious nature. What is the purpose of prayer but to petition Almighty God? Can a Christian rightly join in a prayer offered by a Hindu to a Muslim god? >The Supreme Being > > There is no Masonic God; a Freemason remains committed to the God >of the religion he professes. "God is revently spoken of as the Great Architect of the Universe... Upon this foundation stone we construct a simple religious faith - the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Man, and the immortality of the soul - simple, but all-efficient. By reason of this simple creed, Freemasonry has been able to attract and accept as members of the Fraternity adherents of every religious faith in the world - Christians, Jews, Hindoos, Mohammedans, Pharisees, Buddhists, and others - atheists alone being excluded." (_Freemasonry - A Simple Religious Faith, Royal Arch Mason_, Vol. V, No. 9, March 1957) "½Freemasons| propose that God is the spiritual Father of good men regardless of their religious faith. But in the Bible, spiritual brotherhood is restricted to those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Matt. 12:48,49; Phil. 2:25; Col. 1:1; Philemon 16; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 3:1; Jam. 2:1). It is unthinkable in the light of Scripture, that a man of another religious faith is a spiritual brother with a Christian; however this is what Freemasonry declares." (PCA, p. 2009) >Volume of Sacred Law > > An open Volume of Sacred Law is an essential part of every >Masonic meeting. The Volume of Sacred Law to a Christian is the Bible; >to Freemasons of other faiths it is the book held holy by them. Masonry claims that is is not founded on the Bible. However, Masonic rituals and writings abound with Bible quotations. Since it regards itself as the essence of all religions, it has no problem with adapting and perverting Scripture for its own purpose. In Mackey's _Masonic Ritual_ the name of Jesus Christ is omitted (for obvious reasons) from I Peter 2:5 (p. 271), 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (p. 348), and 2 Thessalonians 3:12 (p. 349). On page 286 of _Masonic Rituals_ is found an etching of the Masonic keystone. Around the keystone is Acts 4:11, "This is the stone with was set at nought of you builders, which is become the headstone of the corner." In that passage of scripture Peter is quoting Psalm 118:22 and applying it to Jesus Christ. Masons apparently believe the cornerstone is their own religion. ½PT: The keystone does not appear in regular, "Blue Lodge" masonry, but is a part of one of the optional "side" degrees. The allegory is far more benign than Mr. Albrecht believes. See also Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17, any of which Peter may be quoting.| >Freemasonry Compared with Religion > >Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: > a. It has no dogma or theology (and by forbidding religious discussion > at its meetings will not allow a Masonic dogma to develop). "Some Masons contend that there is no theology in the lodge. This statement is not borne out by the evidence. Theology means 'a study of God.' Freemasonry clearly speaks of a god, demands a belief in God, instructs the candidate how to pray and informs the candidate of God's true name. The theology of Freemasonry is acted out in various ceremonies of its degrees. An examination of the meanings of the ceremonies and the symbols demonstrates the particular theology of the lodge." (PCA, p. 2004) > b. It offers no sacrements. Strictly speaking, this is not a requirement of religion. Some particular religions have sacraments, but not all. > c. It does not claim to lead to salvation, by works, secret knowledge > or any other means (the secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with > modes of recognition, not with salvation). But it does propose a way of salvation. "Freemasonry has taught that each man can, by himself, work out his own conception of God and thereby achieve salvation." (J.S.M. Ward, _Freemasonry: Its Aims and Ideals_, p. 187) Freemasonry puts forth the notion that it "strives to make good men better." (_This is Masonry: Builder of Society_) But those familiar with the Bible know that all men apart from Christ are dead in trespasses and sin, and are incapable of good works. As Mackey said, "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) It definitely teaches a way of salvation, one incompatible with the Christian gospel. Let me close with a quote from E.A. Coil, Unitarian minister and Masonic Worshipful Master: That the fundamental difference in the principles embodied in the historic creeds of Christendom and those of our modern secret orders has not been clearly thought out is indicated by the fact that many pledge themselves to both. There are lodge men who, in the churches, subscribe to the doctrine that 'We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by faith and not for our own works or deservings,' and enthusiastically join in the singing of hymns in which that idea is embodied. Then in their lodge meetings they just as enthusiastically assent to the following declaration: 'Although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the eyes of men, yet that All-Seeing Eye whom the sun, moon, and stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will us according to our merits'. A little child, once its attention is called to the matter, ought to be able to see that it is impossible to harmonize the creed statement here quoted, with the declaration taken from the monitor of one of our greatest and most effective secret orders, and found, in substance, in the liturgies of nearly all the others. If 'We are accounted righteous before God, for the merit of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by faith and not by our own works or deservings,' then it cannot possibly be true that the All-Seeing Eye 'Pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will us according to our merits'. One of those declarations excludes the other. Men cannot consistently subscribe to both. (_The Relation of the Liberal Churches and the Fraternal Orders_, pp. 10,11) Coil's point in making this comment was to bring to light the fact that modern liberalism within Christian circles was promoting the Masonic agenda. He believed that as more churches jettisoned the historic creeds of the past and denied the orthodox faith, progress would be made in advancing the cause of Masonry (i.e. the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man) within the church. He said, "... those brought up in 'Orthodox' Sunday schools and churches have to unlearn, deny or ignore much of what has been taught them if they become members of the lodge." (p. 18) The Orthodox Presbyterian Church concluded: The committee finds that the evidence presented concerning the religion of Masonry permits but one conclusion. Although a number of objections commonly brought against Masonry seem to the committee not to be weighty, yet it is driven to the conclusion that Masonry is a religious institution and as such is definitely anti-Christian. -- Tom Albrecht ------------------------------ End of MASONIC Digest *********************

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