Many people like to talk about Masons and Freemasonry, but very few of these people ever actually ask Masons to explain themselves. Conspiracy theorists are afraid that if they just ask us questions directly and hear our polite answers they will not have any grounds for their slanders any more The truth is that Masons are proud of their work, proud of their heritage and happy to answer questions about or organization and what we do. . Here are two of the most common questions people have about Freemasonry, and the simple answers that lay fantasies to rest.
Why are Masons so Secretive?
In all honesty Masons are not that secretive. We proudly affirm our membership in the Lodge, we list our meeting places in the phone book and usually have signs out front. You can easily find out about the various degrees of membership, and most other basic information can be gained just by asking a Mason you know. We are not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These secrets can be broken down into three categories.
1. Membership Rolls
Masons have been subject to persecution over the years—over 100,000 were killed during the Nazi Holocaust. While the overwhelming number of Masons in Western nations will happily tell you of their membership, we aren’t going to give over a list of everyone initiated into the Lodge. This is for our membership’s personal safety, and most organizations—even the most innocent and public—are likely to do the same in these privacy concerned times.
2. Means of Identification
One of the sacred duties of every Mason is to serve any brother Mason in need, regardless of whether they are from the same Lodge. As a result, any con artist could claim to be a Mason to rip off true Masons if we didn’t have secret ways of identifying one another. Handshakes or “grips” and passwords are thus kept secret.
Freemasonry developed from the traditions of stonemasons in the Middle Ages. The knowledge of how to cut and lay stones was used as a sort of mnemonic device to teach various spiritual truths for personal development. Just like a math class, each subsequent lesson is dependent on what was learned in the lessons before, and so if one learns of a ritual without knowing the knowledge and rituals that came before they will be confused or misled. For this reason, the details of our rituals are kept private. Other important services such as our funeral rituals, are public.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Many are convinced—and this includes major church officials—that the Lodge is a religion. In fact, we have never considered ourselves a religion, and strive to teach nothing that would contradict any man’s existing faith. Just as we aren’t a secret society, but rather a society with secrets, we aren’t a religion, though we are religious. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many others come together in the Lodge, believing all in their own concept of a Higher Power. We have no specific conception of salvation or the afterlife, no Scriptures of our own, no priests or clergy—only leaders recognized for their service to their brothers in the Lodge. If Freemasonry is a religion, so is your local college fraternity, your therapeutic support group or your bowling league. We are committed to helping one another develop our honor and wisdom in the context of our individual religious traditions, all in a spirit of tolerance and brotherhood. Sadly, this evokes hostility among the jealous, though we simply pray for them and go on with our work.