|There have been many questions raised regarding the compatibility of religion and Freemasonry. Entering into any discussion regarding religion is a minefield of differing opinions which can explode without any rhyme or reason. Which is why the discussion of one’s faith or religion is forbidden in Masonic meetings.
||DETAILS OF THE MOST FAMOUS RELIGIOUS FREEMASONS THROUGOUT HISTORY
Freemasonry has a freer attitude to a person’s faith than most religions as it accepts any brother who believes in god. The brother may not be a regular attendee at any organised service but his belief must be that there is some supreme power which created us. We are not totally the result of evolution. Yes, although we are all aware of another brother’s faith we do not discuss issues related to it. That is private to him and we respect his belief.
The word free in Freemasonry has another context in regard to a person’s faith. Everyman is free to practice his own belief without coercion. Not, as many religions believe “We are the right and only religion – believe in what we profess or you will not be accepted in heaven”.
On a religious stand point we can do no better than quote The Home Affairs Select Committee, which totally differs from the attitude of the Christian Church. In May 1998 a working group reported to Parliament. "We do not believe that there is anything sinister about Freemasonry, properly observed... it is obvious that there is a great deal of unjustified paranoia about Freemasonry"
But this is where there is a conflict with some religions; in particular Christianity. Everyone has their own view but, for all the misconceptions and accusations of Satanic rituals directed at Freemasonry, particularly by those purporting religious ideals, should remember that Freemasonry never burnt anyone at the stake!
The negative view of Freemasonry by the Church of England General Synod has indicates that it is out of step with the real world. There are many clergy who are Freemasons. There are also annual Masonic services in Cathedrals and churches throughout the country. Added to this, the church and members of the clergy, are quite happy to accept charity donations, and have work carried out on repairing stone work etc of their church, paid for by Freemasonry.
The Catholic Church, while having the same stance, stated in 1983 that Catholics who become Masons are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. But the penalty of excommunication is not formally declared in the current code of canon law.
The accusations of Satanic rituals by some, in particular the religious zealots, who are happy to refer to the historical significance of the Bible do not bother to ask about the historical significance behind the ritual. These historic rituals, where Freemasonry is accused of ‘blood curling oaths’ are no different, when referring to Jesus, to that part of the Prayer of Humble Access which states …to drink his blood and eat his flesh!
But many do not understand that there is a fundamental difference between faith and religion. Principally faith is a personal spiritual concept directly between a person and their God. It is faith is the personal knowledge and belief in a direct association, trust and loyalty to an all encompassing God of all people.
On the other hand religion is conformity to a system of written doctrines, attitudes and beliefs, in a God, as defined by man, operated through intermediaries, ie priests, bishops etc. It is only accessible through a belief in that religion which is sometimes in direct conflict with the basis of the faith on which it is founded.
The recent decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury, reported in the Church Times 20 May, 2011, to ‘suggest’ that Principal of Pusey House, Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker, should reconsider his membership (of Freemasonry) before his consecration as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet is totally out of step with the readers of Church Times. In a vote questioning if Freemasonry was compatible with the church readers voted over 90% that it was. In other words less that 10 percent thought that the Archbishop, whose father was a Freemason, was right.
In 2003 Dr Rowan Williams, also apologised to Britain's 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected clergy from senior posts in his diocese. So one asks why this change. Did he really not mean what he said in 2003?
Of course while Dr Williams is criticising Freemasonry, which supports all faiths, he says little about his membership of a non Christian faith the Gorsedo Druid Bards. Its rituals are elaborate, colourful and moving, and on the surface, pagan in nature and expression. If one wants secret society it is known that the chosen few rarely speak or offer explanations as to the status and purpose of the Gorsedd, except in retaliation.
But again he joins the ranks of the ‘I really do not know and am not bothered about finding out before I make a judgement’ when he states "Where anxieties exist, however, they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty."
Freemasons do not take an oath which is defined as ‘a solemn appeal to a deity’. They take an obligation defined as ‘something by which a person is bound or obliged to do as a sense of duty’. Basically loyalty to Freemasonry and upholding and observing the laws of the nation. Does he criticise a Freemasons loyalty to all that?
It is also said that Freemasonry is incompatible with religion because Freemasonry teaches a ‘naturalistic religion’ that espouses indifferentism. A position where a person can be equally pleasing to God while remaining in any religion. It would be interesting to find out where this is stated in the Bible. Rather this espouses religious fundamentalism. If Freemasonry is wrong then why are the religious leaders talking together on inter faith dialogue. – Hoping to convert each other!
In the past many kings, ‘defender of the faith’, of this country, have been Freemasons. So there is a strong historic link with Freemasonry.
Masonry is also said to be a parallel religion to Christianity. What they miss is that it is not a religion as it accepts those of all religions. The New Catholic Encyclopaedia states, "Freemasonry displays all the elements of religion, and as such it becomes a rival to the religion of the Gospel. This is the worry – rival to religion - that Freemasonry will take away converts to religion. It actually does the opposite as one must have a belief in God.
Masonry is also accused of being a secret society. This point is explained else where. Freemasonry is not a secret society. It is often stated that initiates subscribe to secret blood oaths that are contrary to Christian morals. Freemasonry does not subscribe to blood oaths. When talking about the spilling of blood the history of the Catholic religion is overflowing with the killing of many non believers.
Masonry's has supported religion by the fact that one has to believe in a God. The Church has imposed the penalty of excommunication on Catholics who become Freemasons. The penalty of excommunication for joining the Masonic Lodge was explicit in the 1917 code of canon law (canon 2335), and it is implicit in the 1983 code. Interestingly the only comment one can add to this that the Catholic Church is aware of many of its clergy who are Freemasons and have not taken any action against them either in receiving or even giving Holy Communion.