Monday, December 13, 2010

Is Freemasonry Secular Humanism?


What is the position of Liberal European Freemasonry regarding religion? When the Grand Orient of France decided in 1877 to remove the requirement that a candidate profess a belief in God this is how they defined their position:

"Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no
doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has
decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the
Constitution (requiring a belief in Deity) shall be erased, and that for the words
of the said article the following shall be substituted:

"Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and
progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth,
study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of
benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of
conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account
of his belief, and its motto is 'Liberty, Equality and

The following statement is attributed to a member of the Grand Orient of France in the article, "The Grand Orient of France and the Three Great Lights" published in the Builder, January, 1918:

"The Grand Orient of France, while it respects all philosophical
beliefs, insists upon absolute liberty of belief. This does not
mean that we banish from our lodges the belief in God. The United
Grand Lodge of England on the contrary desires to make a belief in
God in some manner compulsory. The Grand Orient of France is much
more liberal, since in proclaiming the absolute liberty of belief
it permits to each one of its members the liberty to believe or not
to believe in God, and by so doing desires to respect its members
in their convictions, their doctrines and their beliefs."

From these statements do we draw the conclusion that the Grand Orient of France is an atheistic, or secular humanist institution? I think not.

There has been a trend of late in some quarters of Liberal Freemasonry here in the United States to equate Freemasonry with secular humanism, and to celebrate the participation of well-known atheists with the order. It is my personal belief that this is a mistaken policy, one which will eventually come back to haunt those that are encouraging it.

Religion, or the lack thereof, has absolutely no place in Freemasonry. Whether a candidate is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Wiccan, is irrelevant to that persons becoming a Mason, joining the Navy, or being a member of the PTA. Most Liberal Masons would agree with this position. Why then do some insist that Freemasonry and Secular Humanism are natural allies?

According to the American Humanist Association, one of their principles is to be:

"Without theism and free of supernaturalism"

According to the Council for Secular Humanism, it is committed:

"to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions."

For those Brothers and Sisters that are theists, faith, and even forms of mysticism (depending on the particular faith) are valid means of seeking solutions to "important human questions".

As a Freemason in the tradition of the Grand Orient of France, I support any brother that wholeheartedly subscribes to the positions of the AHA and the CSH. He has the right to his belief.

By the same token, I fully support the right of a sister to pray the rosary each day because she believes that is an action pleasing to God. It is her right to believe that.

When any jurisdiction takes an official stance in support of Atheism or Secular Humanism, that obedience is walking on thin ice; it is departing from the traditional position of Liberal, European Freemasonry in my opinion. This is unwise, deters people of faith from approaching the order, and gives further ammunition to the mainstream Grand Lodges who have always contended that Grand Orient Freemasonry is hostile to religion. Freemasonry "excludes no person on account of his belief". I wonder how comfortable a devoutly religious brother would feel seeing another brother publicly ridicule (or blaspheme) his beliefs?

Very poor judgment I think.


John Galt said...

It is not a matter for you or I, or any such Masonic organization, to decide (as you aptly stated to demand that a person submit to a dogmatic belief and never change, regardless of what he or she may learn.

It is detrimental when a Masonic organization aligns itself so clearly with one stream of belief (or non-belief as the case may be).

I do think that it is detrimental for a Masonic organization to determine, by word or action - overt or covert, to purposefully work to advance a particular humanist/secularist or religious agenda. Now, I do believe that the governance of such an organization should be adogmatic in practice because any direction of dogma that could be chosen would ultimately work to stifle Brethren who held different opinions.

There are some that will claim that a Mason can believe whatever he wishes but the organization demands secularism of every member. That is a secularist organization and it is then hostile to people that hold religious beliefs.


San Diego Freemason said...

My friend and Brother Willy Gutman was having difficulty posting and asked me to post this comment for him:

"There is no hostility, implied or overt, by Grand Orient Freemasonry against any religious conviction. GO is non-religious, not anti-religious. However, anyone fully apprised of the secular, progressive nature of GO Freemasonry who seeks entry into GO in spite of his religious beliefs is doing himself and the organization a disfavor. A Masonic lodge is a temple of learning, tolerance and enlightenment, not a house of worship."

Thank you for your input on this issue B:. Willy

John Galt said...

It appears that liberal Freemasonry is much more than a secularist body, or they should leave the term "liberal" behind. There is mountains of evidence and practice in which people of religious beliefs are welcomed and flourish in various liberal Masonic organizations in the world.

Freemasonry, of any type, is not a secularist or a dogmatic organization - usually. Is there any that are purely secular and non-religious in practice?

dtamayo said...

Many brethren and non-masons missed the point of S:. Margaret Downey becoming a member of GOUSA. It is not the fact that she is a non-believer that makes her a great member, but it is the fact that she is a life long defender of human rights. As members of an often hated minority group, Margaret and her family have been the targets of many abuses by those who claim to have a god on their side. It is not her beliefs or lack of them that makes her special, it is her relentless fight for equality that attracts many of her admirers. GOUSA is a religious and as secular as the U.S. Constitution and counts with many members who are openly and strongly devout, which is, of course, irrelevant to their membership as Freemasons.

David T. (Full disclosure: I'm Grand Secretary of External Affairs for GOUSA, but this post is my own personal and humble opinion).

John Galt said...

Brother David,
It is good to hear from you again. One's beliefs or non-beliefs should not be a matter of concern as you so rightly said.

Masonry could be so much more than it is in this country.


San Diego Freemason said...

B:. Tamayo, It was not my intent to single out S:.Margaret for criticism, nor the GOUSA's recent initiation of her.

You did raise an interesting question though. In researching her bio, I see a career dedicated to fighting for the rights of Atheists and for atheist ideology.

The you tube video of her participation in the "blasphemy challenge", her participation in the "Great American-God Out" and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, (which posts the following sign during the Christmas season at the Wisconsin State Capitol:

"At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail.

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

There is only our natural world.

Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds")

show a life devoted to promulgating the atheist world-view (which of course is anyone's right).

I am not able to locate the defense of Human Rights that you allude to or "her relentless fight for equality" other than for atheists (who of course have rights as much as anyone that should be defended).

Thank you for your comments.

San Diego Freemason said...

Though this blog reflects my personal opinions only, I do feel that it is important to state that my obedience, the George Washington Union has a treaty of amity with the GOUSA.

Nothing written in my blog should be construed as criticism of a fellow Brother,or Sister of that, or any, jurisdiction.

I have simply been voicing my personal concerns regarding developments that I perceive in the larger masonic community as I stated in the original post.

John Galt said...

Most of the great names in our nation's struggle for equality under the law and civil rights were ministers. Religion is not in an of itself harmful to human rights. One of the greatest names in the history of the struggle for freedom, Ghandi, was a religious man.

Would any system of Masonry rightly reject the wisdom and acts Martin Luther King Jr or Mahatma Ghandi as some of their teachings were in a religious context? Should their ideas be attacked in the name of freedom and equality? On the same token should humanist/secularist ideas be attacked in the name of freedom and equality?

I would say "certainly not." Particularly if someone truly believes in that doctrine. From the outside looking in it may seem to some or many that one point of view is being championed.

John Galt said...

The title of the post was "Is Freemasonry Secular Humanism?" It is clear from the evidence that it is not. Some can view it as such but that does not invalidate the Freemasonry of others. When one uses their own approach to our Craft in such a way as to attempt to invalidate others' Freemasonry then those actions would place them outside of the greater fraternity.

I do not begrudge them their opinions, but I cannot in good conscience pretend that venomous attacks on another Mason's life originate from a Masonic position.

San Diego Freemason said...

Very true Brother.

We, as masons, must always remember that the craft is based on tolerance. Intolerance towards people of a different race, political persuasion, secular-philosophy, or religious confession, is counter to masonic values.

This can be qualified only when such views are inherently intolerant, such as Fascism and the like, and even then we can recognize the right of individuals such as Klansmen to believe what they do, but such persons would never be accepted into the fraternity.

As I mentioned to my WM, there is a distinction between a mason believing homosexuality is wrong, (if that is his/ her religious opinion) and a mason that is engaged in hateful speech against the Gay community.

A personal belief that God does not exist is different than publicly ridiculing people of faith and engaging in actions intended to offend them.

This would be just as intolerant as a believer having a bumper-sticker claiming atheists are going to hell, or publicly stating "God hates fags".

We live in a very diverse world in which there are many different beliefs. Freemasonry has always taught that despite these differences we can find common ground and learn to live and work together.

The Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, and Muslims in the early lodges would not have been able to realize this goal if they had preached hatred and intolerance of each others faiths and philosophies outside the lodge room.

John Galt said...

My Brother, like you I am interested in real citizenship and real tolerance. Not even tolerance but acceptance on the level. There is so much that could be accomplished if particular or petty agendas are removed from the Masonic world and we actually work for what Masonry stands for.

We all fail from time to time. We have to avoid failing continuously. Can Masons really move forward or are the politics more important than the Craft?

San Diego Freemason said...


I have been informed that as of today, January 10th, 2011, my obedience, the George Washington Union of Freemasons, has terminated the treaty of amity that existed between us and the Grand Orient of the United States.

It was still not my intent to disparage the members of any obedience, regardless of treaties, in the original posting, which reflects my own personal observations.

San Diego Freemason said...

My Dear Brother Willy is still having difficulties posting. He has asked me to post this for him:

"Many of the comments here betray a single narrow optic -- that which is perceived by those who came up through an American Blue Lodge. This system is generally regarded by European obediences -- especially GO -- as a knife-and-fork refuge for the geriatric set."

"This is the generous view of American Freemasonry, which bears no resemblance to its European roots, and whose "labors" make a mockery of the progressive, socially engaged, knowledge-seeking, enlightenment-driven French GO, the only legitimate mother of Freemasonry."

"Even a cursory look at the founders and early followers of GO reveals that they were philosophers, writers, poets, thinkers, creative geniuses and men of action who helped France and the nascent USA rid themselves of the yoke of feudal monarchy, corrupt clergy and the tyranny of rigid beliefs (religion)."

"Well-intentioned American Brothers and Sisters may be seduced by the notion that they can pick and choose and fashion an "amalgam," a one-size-fits-all Masonic system in which Freemasonry's original ideals, spirit and raison d'ĂȘtre can be glaringly overlooked, modified or eliminated."

"Such misplaced ecumenism can only spawn an irrelevant entity or a monstrous miscreation."


San Diego Freemason said...

Thank you B:. Willy for your comments.

I think that we all agree in the importance of the separation of Church and State.

Forcing religious beliefs down peoples throats, as was the norm in the 18th century and earlier is completely unacceptable.

Forcing people to abandon their religious beliefs is equally reprehensible.

I strongly feel that that Freemasonry should remain neutral on religious issues, neither espousing them, nor denigrating them.

John Galt said...

No argument from me Brother. I would like to add that Freemasony is also not a cudgel nor a platform for a cudgel to be used on citizens that don't appreciate nor want to live a life in an atheist manner.

Separation from church and state is absolutely necessary in a free republic, and I should add "state and church" which would be closer to the words "no law respecting the establishment of religion." Either way, it amounts to the same thing. A vocal rabid minority or majority does not possess the power to force their agendas on others.