Can an atheist join a Masonic Lodge?

Freemasonry is not a religion



see also:

The Ethically Inspired Anthropology of Freemasonry

Review by: Giuliano di Bernardo: The Freemasons and their image of man. About the philosophy of the Freemasons. 1989, 3rd edition 2010.




The main characteristics of "religion"


... First of all, it is necessary to examine what "religion" is. Most dictionaries strangely avoid a precise definition. In addition, in every dictionary there are different paraphrases of this strange thing. So it is not as easy to grasp as scientific or technical structures and facts.


The word alone is double-edged, as there are two Latin verbs: religere (or relere) and religare. The latter means "tie back", "reconnect", the former "go through repeatedly", "pay careful attention to".


Most people assume that "religion" is derived from religer, so "pay attention to it repeatedly and carefully".

This is already in contrast to what follows in the paraphrases, because they mostly move in the meaning field of "backbone", for example in the sense of the feeling of "connectedness, dependency, the obligation to a mysterious, supportive and venerable one Makes"(Schmidt-Schischkoff 1969; similar Hoffmeister 1955).

This power can be "God"; But it can also be a "deity", a plurality of divine beings, even spirits or souls. Ultimately, this power can also mean forces of nature or a uniform or a dualistic principle.

In terms of gods, spirits or principles believed. Faith here means above all, one believes that these powers somehow Act, d. H. Direct the course of the world, events or human life, currently, through constant intervention, or more generally, by determining the direction, speed and duration of events.


When a power is at work, man can try to favor it or even ask something of it. This can happen on the one hand through sacrifices, incantations or prayers, on the other hand by seeing power as sacred, venerating it, submitting to it.

If the person so his whole way of life, his experience, striving and thinking towards this or towards this power aligns, then suddenly the twofold meaning of religion applies: The "bond" with this power is so great that a "careful observation" of it is necessary. Or vice versa, the "careful observation" of power must be so great that people can use this power from which they once detached themselves - e.g. B. through iniquity or original sin - in which reconciliation can reconnect. If he strives for it, then a way of salvation can open up for him, which frees himself from suffering and sin and leads to redemption.


Whenever people want to consolidate something, fix it for a long time, they have to do it regulate put up, Institutions form. In order to consolidate the bond with the effective power that lies beyond human comprehension, man creates dogma, ritual, and the church. These institutions connect people to one another in their turn to a superhuman power.


Some important characteristics of religion are given in this brief sketch. It is now necessary to investigate whether Freemasonry also exhibits all of these characteristics, making it a religion, or whether some important characteristics are missing.

It must always be kept in mind that the range extends from natural religions to founder religions to the religion of revelation.


Freemasonry: human independence and fraternity


Certainly Freemasonry knows a superhuman power that A. B. a. W., the "Almighty Builder of All Worlds". (The “Almighty God” appears in the Regius poem of 1390; the “Grand Architect du ciel et de la terre” in the Dumfries manuscript from 1710.)

But this is more likely to be one Recognition of this power than feeling dependent and committed to her.

The bond with her is not so central to the Masonic work that there is veneration and adoration. The A. B. a. W. is addressed in prayer in some boxes and asked for his blessing at the end of the work, but it has more of the character of an additional safeguard. It's not central.


In Freemasonry, much more weight is placed on people's personal responsibility, their independence and their own way of life.

The emphasis of the feeling of connectedness lies in the Solidarity with fellow human beings, not with God. The core idea is the universal chain of brothers, not communion in God. Hence the motto is: "Freedom, Equality, Fraternity". It is known that these slogans of the French Revolution come from Masonic thought.


Two different meanings of religion in the "Old Duties"


This can also be read in the so-called "Old Obligations of 1723", where it says in the first chapter, "Of God and Religion":


"In ancient times the masons in every country were obliged to belong to the religion that was valid in their country or people, today however, it is considered more advisable to use them just to commit to the religion in which all people agree ... They should therefore be good and honest men, of honor and decency ", in English:" to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty. "


This is a brief explanation of the first sentence of the Old Duties, which begins with the requirement:

"As a bricklayer, the bricklayer is obliged to obey the moral law." In addition, as it says in the 2nd chapter: "The mason is a peace-loving citizen of the state", in English somewhat more precisely: "A Mason is a peaceable subject to the civil powers."


The bricklayer is therefore not obliged to believe in God, nor to belong to a religion in the strict sense.


You might think so for now, but the matter is more complicated. In the text of the Old Duties "God" never appears (except in the title mentioned), and the word religion is used in two different meanings. You have to tell them apart.

· Religion is irrelevant in the sense defined at the beginning; one shouldn't have any arguments about them (Quarrels, chapter 6.2).

· The word "religion" for "in which all Men agree" is an unfortunate word, it should rather mean: Standard of living. Even if this is referred to as "Catholick Religion" in Chapter 6.2, it also does not mean: Catholic religious affiliation, because precisely afterwards reference is made to the Reformation in Britain and the apostasy and separation from communion with Rome. Therefore, in the version of the old duties from 1815 it only says "universal religion":


Not all people and not all brothers are noble people


The assertion that this religion is considered a way of life by all People are respected, because, as the old duties describe, there are men who allow themselves to be drawn into "an insurrection or a conspiracy against the peace or the good" of a nation (Chapter 2); there are "immoral or scandalous men" (chap. 3), yes "ignorant deceivers" (ignorant false pretenders; chap. 6.6).

So it is not all people who agree in this "all-embracing" (Krause, 1821) religion.


Of course, the first Freemasonry was aware that even good and honest men do not always obey moral and state law.

There can also be rebels in the lodge (Chapter 2); The bricklayer can scold (Chapter 5) and do stupid things (6.1), argue (6.2), be a nuisance to others (6.3), carry secrets out of the box (6.5), slander brothers and be vindictive (Finally).

In short, bricklayers are only people, but people who are strive about decency, honesty and loyalty to the state and its relatives.


Freemasonry as a brotherhood with human and professional goals


According to the Old Duties, Freemasonry is a brotherhood, for which two English terms stand: Fraternity and Brotherhood.

Its only explicitly stated goal is that it should become a "center of union" and a "means of establishing true friendship among people who would otherwise have remained strangers to one another" (Chapter 1).


Other goals are mentioned indirectly, which we have already mentioned in relation to individual people.

There is also a jobethos: The builders should be well served, so that "the brothers do not have to be ashamed and no shadow falls on the royal art (i.e. masonry)" (Chapter 4; cf. Chapter 5). It is therefore a matter of serving the client, completing a work for their benefit.

To do this, the younger brothers must be instructed by the others. And together with this instruction in work, brotherly love should also grow and continue (chap. 5). "Harmony" is said to rule among the brothers. Brotherly love is the cornerstone and keystone of brotherhood (Finally).


If you summarize these duties (charges), you can say: morality, loyalty, work and brotherly love.


A look back at history: speculative masonry and division


Now, of course, the old duties should not be overestimated, as they are still completely under the spell of operational masonry, that is, of actual building.

On the other hand, speculative masonry had emerged as early as the 17th century; H. especially in Scotland and England, non-masons were also accepted into the lodges. B. merchants, tradespeople, civil servants, etc.

The first deputy grandmaster of the English lodges who published the Old Duties was John Theophilus Desaguliers, a well-known physicist who, among other things, was also struggled with the construction of the steam engine.


The transition from factory masonry to speculative masonry brought about a cultivated one through the "accepted" masons, the so-called gentleman masons Socializing with table feasts and drinks, singing and smoking, on the other hand, mainly through influences from the mainland, enlightenment ideas under the principles of humanity, tolerance and cosmopolitanism.


The liberal The direction of the first documented London grand lodge was a thorn in the side of some masons, so that they split off and in 1751 merged under Laurence Dermott to form their own grand lodge, which referred to the so-called "old institutions", i.e. old traditions. The old duties were "New Constitutions" back then. To this conservative Wende also included a strong restriction on the dogmatic, and that means theological standpoint of the English high church.


So in England there were the modernists (because of the old duties) and the old masons.

Not until that in Napoleon's time modernist Freemasons on the continent were grouped under the "Grand Orient de France", the two English obediences were combined in London in 1813 to form the "United Grand Lodge of England" conservative Conception of the old masons completely triumphed. There are only three symbolic degrees of "blue" masonry and the Royal Arch degree. No high-level organization has authority.


Since then, two directions have been represented in the worldwide bricklayer movement. In 1877 there was a final break between the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Orient de France.

The deepest divergence is in the final orientation of the Masonic Institutions. Gottlieb Imhof (I, 100) put it this way in 1955:

"While the Anglo-Saxons regard the belief in a personal God and in a resurrection of the flesh as the highest landmark, and thus stand on theological ground, the search for truth appears to the novels as the highest task of Freemasonry."


The lodge work is not a worship service


What does this mean for the lodges that belong to Anglo-Saxon obedience?

Gottlieb Imhof has already formulated it: You stand "on theological ground", i. H. Any religious denomination, a bond and a return to the divine is a prerequisite for acceptance into a lodge.

But that doesn't mean Freemasonry is religion.

· The work in the lodge takes place too to honor of the A. B. a. W. - according to the 4th “General Masonic Principle” of the Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina).

· It is not centered on something sacred - but geared towards human self-ennoblement.

· It is not a worship service - but joint work in and on the "Temple of Humanity".

· It takes place in the sense of the old duties of 1723 - that means in particular: If the bricklayer "understands art right, he will neither be a narrow-minded denier of God nor a free spirit without ties" (he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine " ).


now is the requirement Participation in an organization does not necessarily mean a characterization of the institution itself.

When brothers in general like special sense religion to have must, so an honest way of life like the belief in a divine resp. superhuman power does not mean that the brotherhood itself is a religion be.


(From a lecture given on September 26, 1979)


Dr. phil. Roland Müller, Switzerland / Copyright © by Mueller Science 2001-2016 / All rights reserved

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