Menage on the Plage at Cap D'Agde

Published: 03rd June 2011
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But though in ancient times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual Distance."

This paragraph, which effectively defines the Masonic stand towards religion in all its forms and branches, effectively allows a Masonic Brother to follow whichever religion is closest to his heart without the need to discuss or justify those beliefs to others, and to mingle with those of differing religions and beliefs.

Whilst the word God is still used in some Rituals its predominance has been replaced by a more general term which, seem from any religious view, comes much closer to the ideals of the Freemasons: The Great Architect of the Universe. This all-encompassing title combines all religious beliefs with the tradition of a Mason - whether operative or speculative - and effectively removes all forms of dogma and specific religious worship from Masonry whilst allowing the individual to turn his thoughts to his own beliefs. At the same time it makes clear that Ritual work in the Masonic Temple is not designed to be a religious meeting nor a meeting for worship in any form, but a ritual gathering amongst men determined to further and hone their own humanitarian skills and actions through betterment of their own perceived position in society and within themselves.

Freemasonry bases this personal improvement on a series of stages whereby a man advances through knowledge and actions from the first grade - the Entered Apprentice - through the second - Fellow Craft - to the highest, that of Master Mason. There are higher grades within Masonry, such as Mark Master and through various organizations such as the Scottish Rite, but the essential work and knowledge of the Freemasons is contained within the first three grades.

Despite the removal of the word God, the lack of an overall Christian or other religious grounding in their Rituals, the Freemasons have taken much from the various church rituals and incorporated it within their own Temple Ritual. This can be justified, for those making comparisons between the two, through historical tradition as much as through a knowledge of the basic rights of man. The various religions happily assimilated beliefs and traditions of previous methods of worship, changing them as needs be to suit their own purpose, and many of these rituals and beliefs have a far longer history than the Church - as an overall term - itself. The belief in ethical business, in fairness, courtesy and a willingness to help others is not an exclusive right of any religion, more a facet of the human being which should be advanced and followed wherever possible. Freemasons have set themselves this task in much the same manner as the early Christians - on paper at least - did.

At the same time, it is impossible to rule a role for religion within Freemasonry out. The acceptance of a higher being, of a power of creation, is a requirement for membership as much as having a good name and the willingness to learn, to assist others, to better oneself.



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