The Religion of Masonry (II)

Fred Shewmaker
Williams, Indiana

In the first article of this series Masonry was shown to be religious in its nature. No effort was made in that article to indicate the doctrines of Masonry. I shall make no greater effort in that direction in this article. The main part of this article will be the quotation of excerpts from Mackey's article "Religion of Masonry" which is to be found in full in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

"There has been a needless expenditure of ingenuity and talent, by a large number of Masonic orators and essayists in the endeavor to prove that Masonry is not religion. This has undoubtedly arisen from a well intended but erroneous view that has been taken of the connection between religion and Masonry, and from a fear that if the Complete disseverance of the two was not made manifest, the opponents of Masonry would be enabled successfully to establish a theory which they have been fond of advancing, that the Masons were disposed to substitute the teachings of their Order for the truths of Christianity. Now I have never for a moment believed that any such unwarrantable assumption, as that Masonry in intended to be a substitute for Christianity, could ever obtain admission into any well regulated mind, and, therefore, I am not disposed to yield, on the subject of the religious character of Masonry, quite so much as has been yielded by more timid brethren. On the contrary I contend, without any sort of hesitation, that Masonry is, in every sense of the word, except one, and that its least philosophical, an eminently religious institution-that it is indebted solely to the religious element which it contains for its continued existence, and that without this religious element it would scarcely be worthy of cultivation by the wise and good. But that I may be truly understood, it will be well first to agree upon the true definition of religion. There is nothing more illogical than to reason upon undefined terms. Webster has given four distinct definitions of religion:

1. Religion, in a comprehensive sense, includes,' he says, 'a belief in the being and perfections of God--in the revelation of his will to man--in man's obligation to obey his commands--in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of moral duties.'

2. HIS second definition is that religion, 'as distinct from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellowmen, in obedience to divine command, or from love to God and his law.'

3. Again, he says that religion, 'as distinct from virtue or morality, consists in the performance of the duties we owe directly to God, from a principle of obedience to his will.'

4. And lastly, he defines religion to be 'any system of faith or worship; and in this sense,' he says, 'religion comprehends the belief and worship of Pagans and Mohammedans as well as of Christians-----any religion consisting in the belief of a superior power, or powers. And it is in this sense that we speak of the Turkish religion, or the Jewish religion, as well as of the Christian.'

Now it is plain that in any of the first three senses in which we may take the word religion (and they do not vary materially differ from each other), Masonry may rightfully claim to be called a religious institution. Closely and accurately examined, it will be found to answer to any one of the requirements of any of these three definitions."

From this point Mackey goes into a detailed explanation of how Masonry fits each part of the first three definitions. With reference to the second and third definitions he writes,

"Performance of the duties we owe to God and to our fellowmen arise from and are founded on a principle of obedience to the divine will."

Later in the same paragraph he writes, "It is idle to say that the Mason does good simply in obedience to the statutes of the Order. These very statutes owe their sanction to the Masonic idea of the nature and perfections of God " "But it must be confessed that the fourth definition does not appear to be strictly applicable to Masonry; it has no pretension to assume a place among the religions of the world as a sectarian 'system of faith and worship' in the sense in which we distinguish Christianity from Judaism or Judaism from Mohammedanism. In this meaning of the word we do not and cannot speak of the Masonic religion, nor say of a man that he is not a Christian but a Mason. Here it is that the opponents of Freemasonry have assumed mistaken ground, in confounding the idea of a religious institution with that of the Christian religion as a peculiar form of worship, and in supposing, because Masonry teaches religious truth, that it is offered as a substitute for Christian truth and Christian obligation Freemasonry is not Christianity, nor a substitute for it. It is not intended to supersede it nor any other form of worship or system of faith."

In the conclusion of this article Mackey writes,

"But the religion of Masonry is not sectarian. It admits men of every creed within its hospitable bosom, rejecting none and approving none for his peculiar faith. It is not Judaism, though there is nothing in it to offend a Jew; it is not Christianity, but there is nothing in it repugnant to the faith of a Christian. Its religion is that general one of nature and primitive revelation,--handed down to us from some ancient and patriarchal priesthood,---in which all men may agree and in which no man can differ. It inculcates the practice of virtue, but it supplies no scheme of redemption for sin. It points its disciples to the path of righteousness, but it does not claim to be 'the way, the truth, and the life.' In so far, therefore, it cannot become a substitute for Christianity, but its tendency is thitherward; and, as the handmaid of religion, it may, and often does, act as the porch that introduces its votaries into the temple of divine truth.

Masonry, then, is, indeed, a religious institution; and on this ground mainly, if not alone, should the religious Mason defend it."

There are a couple of things that I wish specifically to call to your attention. First, notice that the terms "Christian" and "Christian religion" are used to refer to any and every religious group, sect or person believing that they are followers of Christ. This, however, is not an acceptable definition of the terms. It is not acceptable because it is not the Bible definition of a Christian. A Christian is a member of the one body which is the body of Christ, the church. The church which is the body of Christ is not composed of several religious sects who call themselves churches. I would never deny that one could be a Mason and a member of any one ct the religious sects which claim to be a part of the Christian religion. But those who are members of the body of Christ should recognize the vast difference between what a Christian is and what the world, religion in general, and Masonry think a Christian is.

Secondly, the Christian should take a long hard look at what the Mason must fellowship. Masonry "admits men of every creed within its hospitable bosom." We noticed in the first article of this series that a Mason should "view the ceremonies in which it" (the Masonic altar) "is employed with solemn reverence, as being part of a really religious worship." Any Christian considering Masonry should read Matthew 15:9.


June 25, 1970