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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Are Freemasons Antiatheists

Are Freemasons Antiatheists Cover No.

Regular freemasons are, by definition of membership requirement, non-atheists, but this does not mean that they are anti-atheists.
On the other hand, Freemasonry has on occasion been accused of being atheistic simply because the accusers have defined any belief other than their own as such. In fact, regular Freemasonry has always restricted its membership to men who express a belief in Deity. But does this make Freemasonry anti-atheistic?

Dr. James Anderson, in The Charges of a Freemason, wrote in 1723: "A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine." This phrasing was carried forward unchanged for Many Years although at this time, in many jurisdictions, the term "stupid" has been dropped as gratuitous and insulting. While individual freemasons may consider atheists to be stupid, or ignorant, or unfortunate, many other freemasons will simply consider atheists as individuals who hold a differing belief.

Can an atheist become a regular freemason? No; not unless he lies when asked to express a belief in a Supreme Being. There are several irregular jurisdictions that will initiate atheists but they are not recognized by regular Freemasonry.

Freemasonry as a body is not supposed to involve itself in questions of religion or politics, although it could be argued that by restricting its membership to those who believe in God Freemasonry has involved itself in the debate. In the USA, the masonic concordant body, the Scottish Rite, has actively promoted the separation of church and state, raising the accusation that it is anti-religion or anti-Catholic, and sympathetic to, if not promoting, atheism.

Freemasonry does not solicit members, nor does it promote its teachings to the public at large, other than through example. While Freemasonry extends membership only to those believing in God, the secular humanist community only considers as members those who do not. For atheists to accuse freemasons of being anti-atheists would make as much sense as freemasons accusing atheists of being anti-masons. It is logical nonsense. This does not mean that there are not individual freemasons who are anti-atheists or that there are not atheists who are anti-masons. But individual belief does not imply or prove group belief. Where both groups do appear to meet is in the promotion of self-Development, personal responsibility and freedom of individual belief.

Freemasonry does not tell anybody that they have to believe in God, only that, if they do, they meet one of the qualifications for being a freemason. The teachings expressed in the initiatory rituals and lectures of Freemasonry refer to a higher purpose and destiny in a fashion that assumes a belief in God on the part of the candidate. But nowhere is atheism condemned or belittled.

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