Most Masons take part in some religious congregation, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or some other faith. Despite our dedication to serving God, various churches and other religious institutions over the years have criticized or forbidden their members to take part in Masonic activities. Here is a look at various religious ideas on the Lodge, and some of their reasons for their positions.
Masons and the Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church has long been an opponent of the Lodge. This began in the Eighteenth Century for the simple reason that the Lodge keeps some of its operations secret, and the Church expressed suspicions about what was really going on behind closed doors. In truth, the Lodge engages in charitable work, discusses means of self-improvement and allows men to find fellowship in a trustworthy environment. Still, the Church has said that Catholics who take the oath of the Lodge are in “grave sin.”
Part of the reason for animosity towards Freemasonry has to do with the fact that just as the Lodge was growing in prominence, the Church was losing its traditional monopoly on Christian life and Western political power. In the same way that many practicing Catholics will choose to “forget” certain Church teachings such as those dealing with contraception, there are many Catholic Masons.
Masons and Protestant Churches
Protestant churches have a variety of teachings regarding the Lodge, as varied as their other denominational differences. Many mainline Churches have no problems with the Lodge, and in fact a number of Episcopalian, mainline Lutheran and Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ and other Protestant clergy are Masons as well. More evangelical churches are often critical of the Lodge, often due to age old slanders against Masons as some sort of occult order. Fundamentalists tend to oppose the Lodge because we accept members of all different faiths, providing they believe in a Higher Power. Those who believe that they have a monopoly on Truth, and hold intolerant beliefs about other religious traditions tend to find the Lodge’s value of tolerance threatening. Still, there are plenty of evangelical Masons as well.
Masons and the Mormon (LDS) Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—more widely known as the Mormon Church—has no official position on the Lodge. In fact, the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, was himself a Mason, and many early leaders of the Church were also Masons. The compass and square, the most prominent symbol of the Lodge, is also a symbol used in the LDS Church, and other Masonic symbols and traditions were adopted by the Church. At one point the Church discouraged Lodge membership, but this has been abandoned. There are Mormons in Lodges across the United States.
Masons and Islam
Because Muslims believe in a single creator God, they are welcome to join the Lodge. In countries where Muslims form the largest part of the population Lodges display a Qur’an as opposed to the Bible, and in secular Muslim countries like Turkey there are a number of prominent Masons. Still, Islamist clerics have rejected Freemasonry, much like their fundamentalist counterparts in other religions. Anti-Semitic feelings have also been a part of their criticism, as the Lodge accepts Jews.
Masons and Judaism
Jews have been a part of the Lodge since its earliest days, and much of the Biblical foundations of Freemasonry are based on the Hebrew Bible. There is no central body of Judaism, so feelings vary from congregation to congregation, with more orthodox traditions expressing skepticism or outright opposition, and more reform-oriented thinkers appreciating our traditions of tolerance and work against Anti-Semitism.