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Gönderen Konu: Is Freemasonry a Religion?  (Okunma sayısı 3501 defa)

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Eylül 27, 2006, 06:31:14 ÖÖ
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Is Freemasonry a Religion?
By: John J. Robinson

 
Bro. John J. Robinson's last book was A Pilgrim's Path. In this book Bro. Robinson responds to numerous religious criticisms of Freemasonry as well as writing about the "Evangelist Mentality." We are printing several Short Talk Bulletins as a series to help our readers have a response to some of the misleading, inaccurate, and oftentimes untrue statements made by the religious extremists against Freemasonry! (The title Is Freemasonry A Religion? is from a chapter title in the book.) A Pilgrim's Path, by John J. Robinson, was published in 1993 by M. Evans & Co., Inc. in New York City. The book is available in many bookstores or can be ordered through your local bookstore using ISBN 0-87131-732-X. -Editor

       

     I've lost count of how many times I have been asked, "Isn't Freemasonry a separate religion?" It's a question that creates a question: "How in the world did anyone come to believe that Masonry is a religion?" When I ask that, I am usually told by the callers that they heard the charge on an evangelist's broadcast, or read it in an anti-Masonic tract or book.  No one who has asked me the question has claimed to have come up with the notion from personal knowledge or experience.

     The basic question has been addressed over and over again: "No, Masonry is not a religion. It has no intention of being a religion. It doesn't want to be a religion." But those replies rarely have any impact on non-Masons for the simple reason that the defense of Masonry is usually directed at other Masons, not at the masses who are the targets of the anti-Masonic evangelists. What is obviously needed is a broader audience for the defense.

     One point that is confusing to many is the frequent statement by Masonic writers that Freemasons are "religious." They are, but being religious in no way carries with it the concept of being part of a separate religion.  My own parents were very religious, but I really don't believe that they were a separate religion. Any minister of the gospel will agree that he is religious, but every one will deny that he considers his teachings to be those of a separate religion.

     Usually, the allegation that Masonry is a separate religion is helped along by one or more blatant falsehoods-for example, the charge that Masonry has its own path to salvation, through the performance of good works. I never met a Mason who believed that, or who would be able to understand how anyone could ever draw such a conclusion. In practice, it is a handy point for anti-Masons, who are frequently confronted with, "But if the Masons are such evil people, how do you explain their free hospitals, their language-disorder clinics for children, their eye-care program, their homes for the elderly, and all those other Masonic charities?"

     The anti-Masonic answer comes back as, "The Masonic charities are not beloved of God because the Masons teach that good works are the way to salvation. That makes those charities against the will of God." That's sick, but it's what some of them say.

     Masonry leaves it up to the individual Mason to choose his pathway to God, and that policy naturally includes no rules, advice, or admonitions as to the means of salvation. The Mason is expected, quite properly, to get that spiritual guidance from his own denomination, which he is encouraged to support with both his energy and his personal finances.

    Time after time in various lectures, the Freemason is told never to put his duties and responsibilities to the Masonic fraternity ahead of his duties and responsibilities to his church, to his country, and to his family. As for Masonic charities, whether they are organized major efforts or individual acts of kindness (such as aid to a destitute brother, or to his widow and their children), the Mason is told to make no gift that will affect his duty to care for his own family.   In the ceremonies and lectures that lead to a man being raised to the status of Master Mason, he hears no description of heaven or hell. He hears no religious dogma. He hears no mention of Satan. He is told of no Masonic pathway to salvation for the simple reason that there is none.

    The only religious item in the Masonic lodge is the holy book of the initiate's own faith.  Since most Masons are Protestant Christians, that book is usually the King James version of the Bible. The initiate may be given a Masonic Bible by his lodge, his friends, or his family, but it varies from other editions of actual Scripture by not one single word. It is only a "Masonic" Bible because it also contains a brief history of Masonry, or a concordance to relate certain Masonic ritual to scriptural passages. Masons who are not Protestants* bring their own holy books for their initiations.

     Let's start at the beginning: When a man decides to become a Mason, based on what he has seen, heard, or experienced, he files an application, or "petition," with a local Masonic lodge. In signing that petition he asserts that he believes in God, the Supreme Being, and in the immortality of the soul. In the lecture accompanying the initiation rites of the first degree, called Entered Apprentice, he is told that how he chooses to worship God is up to his own conscience.

     The religious experience in the lodge is prayer. Every meeting of Masons opens and closes with prayer. Every meal begins with prayer. As is done so often by the federal government (as, for example, with "In God we trust"), all prayer is addressed (or should be) to God the Father, so that a mixed audience of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, for instance, can relate that prayer to their own worship.  Masons also offer prayers for charitable endeavors, for bereaved Masons and their families, or for a departed brother.

     Clearly, one can easily assert that Freemasonry is not a separate religion. It promotes no heaven, no hell, and no means of salvation. There's no "witnessing" or arguing over religious beliefs in the lodge. There is no religious dogma. It can't be a religion.

     Nevertheless, it is frequently charged that the Masonic lodge has its own God, whose name is "The Great Architect of the Universe." That Masonic term is not a name; it is a designation or reference, as are all terms beginning with the word "The": The Almighty, The Creator, The Most High. If it starts with "The," it is not a name. So why do the Masons use that designation?

     Masonry, as its name implies, centers symbolically around the ancient builders of temples and cathedrals. It is natural for groups to fashion a designation for God that relates to their interests. In the military, I attended an outdoor church service conducted by a visiting chaplain, an ordained minister. He referred to God as "Our Supreme Commander-in-Chief in heaven." The Masons often do refer to God as The Great Architect of the Universe, but what's wrong with that? The architect is one who plans and brings a structure into being. Historians refer to the Founding Fathers as the "architects of the Constitution." As a designation for God, The Great Architect of the Universe makes sense, and it means precisely the same thing as the universally popular "The Creator." The slight difference is that the Masonic designation implies that God created the world according to a plan, although there is no Masonic description of what that plan may be.

*Judeo/Christians use the Holy Bible.  Other faiths may use their Holy Book.
 

FREEMASONRY AND RELIGION

Basic Principles. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance.  Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.

The Supreme Being. Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek, and to express what they know of, God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, "Grand Architect of the Universe," and other nonsectarian titles, to address Deity, In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private, and scared.

Volume of the Sacred Law. An open volume of the Sacred Law, "the rule and guide of life,'' is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law to a Christian is the Bible; to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them.

The Oath of Freemasonry. The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemason's means of recognition. The much discussed "penalties," judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.

Freemasonry Compared with Religion. Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:
      (a) It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy.
      (b) It offers no sacraments.
      (c) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition,  not with the means of salvation.

Freemasonry supports Religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.

    ====================

    From THE SHORT TALK BULLETIN  Published  by the Masonic Service Association of North America, 8120 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-4785. Tel: (301) 588-4010, under the auspices of its member Grand Jurisdictions.  Masonic publications are invited to reproduce, extract, copy or reprint the contents of this Bulletin, providing that the source be indicated and that M.S.A. be provided with courtesy copies of the reprinted materials.
- Sahsima ozel mesaj atmadan once Yonetim Hiyerarsisini izleyerek ilgili yoneticiler ile gorusunuz.
- Masonluk hakkinda ozel mesaj ile bilgi, yardim ve destek sunulmamaktadir.
- Sorunuz ve mesajiniz hangi konuda ise o konudan sorumlu gorevli yada yonetici ile gorusunuz. Sahsim, butun cabalarinizdan sonra gorusmeniz gereken en son kisi olmalidir.
- Sadece hicbir yoneticinin cozemedigi yada forumda asla yazamayacaginiz cok ozel ve onemli konularda sahsima basvurmalisiniz.
- Masonluk ve Masonlar hakkinda bilgi almak ve en onemlisi kisisel yardim konularinda tarafima dogrudan ozel mesaj gonderenler cezalandirilacaktir. Bu konular hakkinda gerekli aciklama forum kurallari ve uyelik sozlesmesinde yeterince acik belirtilmsitir.


Eylül 27, 2006, 06:35:38 ÖÖ
Yanıtla #1
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Here are the facts:

When one examines the commonalities and differences in religions, there is a short list of traits all share but which are unique to none thereby achieving a WORKING model of what religion is. It is important to remember that this involves RELIGION not SPIRITUALITY, which for the most part, is a trait of being human.
bullet   A group of people who by means of culture, propinquity and common beliefs come together in a recognized group.
bullet   A profession of belief in a higher existence and/or being.
bullet   Group action which encases their belief system in symbolism and ritual.
bullet   Through the self-definitions of the above, the group proceeds in a "we-they" quasi political (encased in mysticism and/or spirituality) manner to promote and maintain their organization.

It can reasonably be argued that all of these are true of Masonry. Similarly, however, they are also true of organizations like Scouting, Campfire, Alcoholics Anonymous and The U. S. Navy League - to name but a few.

So on the basis of this non-partisan, sociological model, Freemasonry more than fits and for these reasons, some could find it hard to see why Masonry is, in fact, NOT a religion.

However, when we look at what religion does, there is an entirely different picture.

Religions do the following (though details vary from one to the next):

-Practice sacerdotal functions - Masonry does NOT!
-Teach Theology - Masonry does NOT!
-Ordain Clergy - Masonry does NOT!
-Define sin and salvation - Masonry does NOT!
-Perform sacraments - Masonry does NOT!
-Publish or specify a Holy Book - Masonry does NOT!
-Describe or define the Deity - Masonry does NOT!

Freemasonry does NONE of these things - but religions DO!
- Sahsima ozel mesaj atmadan once Yonetim Hiyerarsisini izleyerek ilgili yoneticiler ile gorusunuz.
- Masonluk hakkinda ozel mesaj ile bilgi, yardim ve destek sunulmamaktadir.
- Sorunuz ve mesajiniz hangi konuda ise o konudan sorumlu gorevli yada yonetici ile gorusunuz. Sahsim, butun cabalarinizdan sonra gorusmeniz gereken en son kisi olmalidir.
- Sadece hicbir yoneticinin cozemedigi yada forumda asla yazamayacaginiz cok ozel ve onemli konularda sahsima basvurmalisiniz.
- Masonluk ve Masonlar hakkinda bilgi almak ve en onemlisi kisisel yardim konularinda tarafima dogrudan ozel mesaj gonderenler cezalandirilacaktir. Bu konular hakkinda gerekli aciklama forum kurallari ve uyelik sozlesmesinde yeterince acik belirtilmsitir.


Eylül 27, 2006, 06:40:21 ÖÖ
Yanıtla #2
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Further Amplification:

Some have written saying that the things outlined above are not true and that Masons DO, in fact, do things we say they do not! Let's examine them one by one:

Practice sacerdotal functions - Masonry does NOT!

Freemasonry has certain 'rituals' when lodges are opened, closed, or receive new members. These in no way imitate religious ceremonies except insofar as they are serious and solemn times, free of laughter and frivolity. Perhaps our detractors think the only time one should be serious is in Church? 

Teach Theology - Masonry does NOT!

Anti-Masons will argue that Freemasonry has it's own Bible (untrue!) and that lessons are read from it. They ignore (or don't even realize) that a single Biblical verse is incorporated into each of the three degrees. These are generally not read but given by memory from the officer who is designated as the Lodge Chaplain. This does NOT occur at each and every meeting: it ONLY occurs when degrees are being conferred - something which may happen from as much as 60-70% of the time on down to once a year or less. It is NOT done at each meeting! Further, though, having a Biblical verse to underscore a particular lesson, does not 'teach' theology - and, in fact, it's always the same three verses each and every time, year after year. Pretty limited teaching, huh?

Some detractors apparently feel, though, that even such limited 'teaching' should be limited to their 'preacher' (who might not have any training in matters of divinity at all). These are often the folks who then themselves will 'explain' what the Bible 'really means'.... <SIGH>

Simply put, the Bible contains many beautiful and meaningful lessons. Is there some reason that it should not be shared with everyone?

Ordain Clergy - Masonry does NOT!

Critics have argued that the Master of the Lodge is a substitute for clergy within the Masonic Lodge. While we stand open for correction, we do not believe that any religious group elects their clergy by popular ballot from amongst their midst and limits their term of office to a single year.* Such a claim is ludicrous at best and any Mason who has served their lodge as Master knows full well that the power of office is truly temporal.

<Masonicinfo Note: An Australian correspondent advises us that the Christadelphians do this but perhaps for a 3-4 year term. Information we've been able to locate on that religion is a bit inconclusive and one website describes the elders as being "appointed". Regardless, we should 'Never say Never', eh? And we also suspect that the Christadelphians don't have progressive leadership offices through which one must pass before becoming a Lodge Master!>

Define sin and salvation - Masonry does NOT!

Critics argue that certain Masonic ritual (not universal but found in many jurisdictions) refers in an incorrect way to the "Great White Throne". Masons are encouraged to live clean and moral lives that when the end of their days on earth are done, they may join their Father 'who is in Heaven'.  Anti-Masons wish to make much of this yet we wonder: would they prefer that any organizations not related to their own be telling their members to live immoral and evil lives simply because they see themselves as the only true interpreters of God's word?

Perform sacraments - Masonry does NOT!

Rituals today have little significance for most people. They have never seen anything as solemn as the ordination of a Priest, may have created their own wedding ceremony with little or no regard for prior conventions and, in general, be totally unfamiliar with things such as protocol, pomp and circumstance.  It may well be that one of the reasons so many Americans travel to Britain each year to witness the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, were so fascinated by the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, or become so absorbed at things like the solemn and serious process involved in guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Ceremony is due to their lack of exposure to 'ritual'.  However, because something is performed in a 'ritualistic' (i.e., repeated identically each time it is done) does not mean that it is a 'sacrament' NOR does it mean that it is in any way attempting to imitate a church function.  If this were so, the military should stop teaching recruits how to march! 

Publish or specify a Holy Book - Masonry does NOT!

In fact, Masons are encouraged to follow the tenets and beliefs of their own religion.  The Bible which is on the altar of every Masonic lodge is representative of the Holy Books of all faiths. Further, Masons take their obligations on the Holy Book of their choosing with some deciding to do so using the Bible as the Holy representative of their particular belief.

Despite the constant claims of anti-Masons, Albert Pike's book - "Morals and Dogma" - is NOT a guide of ANY kind for Freemasonry. It was written 150 years ago (150 years after Masonry in its present form came into being) and was the work of a single person who wanted to express HIS views. For several decades it was given as a gift to the men who joined the Southern United States jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Were it not for anti-Masons and the internet, it would be virtually unknown today.

Describe or define the Deity - Masonry does NOT!

Masonic detractors claim that the God of Freemasonry is GAOTU. These initials are simply an acronym for "Grand Architect of the Universe" (sometimes in the past referred to in the more ancient term of Grand Artificer). Again, because Freemasonry specifies no particular religious belief but encourages its members to follow the beliefs of their own religion, prayers in lodge may refer to the Grand Architect of the Universe.  Members are free to mentally insert the name they wish in its stead.  Certain religious extremists argue that any prayer not offered in the name of Jesus is somehow invalid, ignoring the fact that then Jesus' own prayers would have been so. We do not discuss individual's religious beliefs on this site but merely point out that if a Mason believes that every prayer should be addressed to Jesus, Mary, Allah, or in some other way as represented by his religion, he is free to do so. The Grand Architect of the Universe is God and to claim that Masons somehow worship someone or something else is obfuscation at best and a heinous lie at worst.
- Sahsima ozel mesaj atmadan once Yonetim Hiyerarsisini izleyerek ilgili yoneticiler ile gorusunuz.
- Masonluk hakkinda ozel mesaj ile bilgi, yardim ve destek sunulmamaktadir.
- Sorunuz ve mesajiniz hangi konuda ise o konudan sorumlu gorevli yada yonetici ile gorusunuz. Sahsim, butun cabalarinizdan sonra gorusmeniz gereken en son kisi olmalidir.
- Sadece hicbir yoneticinin cozemedigi yada forumda asla yazamayacaginiz cok ozel ve onemli konularda sahsima basvurmalisiniz.
- Masonluk ve Masonlar hakkinda bilgi almak ve en onemlisi kisisel yardim konularinda tarafima dogrudan ozel mesaj gonderenler cezalandirilacaktir. Bu konular hakkinda gerekli aciklama forum kurallari ve uyelik sozlesmesinde yeterince acik belirtilmsitir.


Nisan 01, 2007, 12:23:23 ÖS
Yanıtla #3
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This is possibly the most honest and cogent response to the whole question, that I have ever read.

Well Said!


 

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