Saturday, January 08, 2011

Atheists and Freemasonry

In a previous post, "Universal Freemasonry", I wrote about the possibility of an atheist becoming a Freemason. Of course, most American Masons would vehemently disagree with my opinion on the matter. Despite this there exists within the liberal Masonic community a sizable population of atheists. While I do not find this to be objectionable, what I do disagree with is the propensity of these Brethren to use the Craft as a platform to promote a militant form of atheism. A recent example of this involves the Grand Orient of the USA. On their website it is announced that the GOUSA has made its first female initiate, one Margaret Downey. The article draws particular attention to her activities promoting atheism.
According to the GOUSA's website FAQ:
"The GOUSA is not concerned with the religious, metaphysical, or philosophical beliefs of its members. A person’s character, not his/her personal and private theological beliefs, is the primary focus of the GOUSA."
Why then is the GOUSA making such hay of the fact that they have initiated a prominent atheist? If one of the primary tenets of their organization is "freedom of conscience" then the fact that Sister Downey is an atheist should be of no import. In fact, it should not even be mentioned, and certainly not advertised as some sort of accomplishment. Whether they intend to or not, the GOUSA is at the very least giving the appearance that they promote atheism, which is in direct conflict with their own concept of "freedom of conscience".
Too often it seems that liberal Masonic bodies use the concept of "freedom of conscience" to promote a radical anti-religious agenda. This has happened in the past with some of the larger liberal bodies, such as the Grand Orient of France, which has seen its members protest visits of the Pope to France while dressed in full Masonic regalia. Thus I suppose that it should come as no surprise that the GOUSA would follow suit. Nonetheless, just as mainstream American Masonic bodies do not promote any one religion over another even while requiring some sort of religious belief, liberal bodies should certainly not promote an agenda of non-belief, even while lacking a requirement for a belief in deity.
Freedom of conscience should go both ways. If one wishes to be free from religion, then that is perfectly acceptable. However, this does not mean that religion should be frowned upon, and those who wish to practice it should be held in the same regard as those who don't, particularly within a Masonic organization. As I mentioned before, one of the purposes of our Craft is to "cause true friendship to exist among those who might have otherwise remained at a perpetual distance". It is only through truly following the concept of "freedom of conscience" that this can be achieved. So mote it be!

6 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

You are Okay with atheist masons? That is an oxymoron...

Please correct me before I disregard you as "irregular".

9:03 PM  
Blogger Prexy said...

Indeed I am. Last I checked, there was nothing in the Craft that constrained me from having an opinion, even one contrary to long held practices. Open your mind a bit. You might be surprised at what you find. And just FYI, I am not "irregular".

9:32 PM  
Blogger MP said...

Scott, Prexy is no more irregular than any mainstream Mason who felt that PHA should be recognized, in the days before that occurred.

By the standard you seem to hold - UGLE should be considered irregular because they admit, and enter into administrative discussions with, a female Grand Lodge in England.

UGLE does not consider them regular, and does not recognize them, however they did, at one point, state that the group was regular in all points but that they allowed women to join, and UGLE treated them with respect.

I am okay with atheist Masons - just they cannot join my jurisdiction.

I also understand the origin of their point of view - that Anderson's original Constitutions did not require Masons to profess ANY specific faith, and that the requirement for a belief in a Supreme Being is an Innovation.

I do not know that I agree with their interpretation, but I understand it.

Of course, I don't think that there ever was a prohibition on innovation in the Craft, just a restriction of how that innovation can be made:

I think it's extremely important to remember that the phrasing of the "no innovations" charge delivered to a new master, is, in itself, an innovation.

The original wording is:
"That it is not in the power of any person, or body of men, to make any alterations, or
innovation in the body of Masonry without the consent first obtained in the Annual Grand
Lodge."

This was adopted at a meeting of the Grand Lodge of England on 24th June 1723.

Subsequently, in 1738, this resolution was incorporated into the Book of Constitutions as one of the new Regulations and it has since been accepted as one of the basic rules of the Craft, with the modification that the words:
"without the consent first obtained in the Annual Grand Lodge" were dropped.

4:13 AM  
Blogger John Galt said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say that atheism is the problem just as a religion is not a problem. The problem would be a someone deciding to act in a rabid fundamentalist manner and ram their religious ideas or lack thereof down the throats of others.

Brandt

3:30 PM  
Blogger Magus Masonica said...

Scott,
While I agree with most of your points, I have a question. Who cares? Why not let the GOUSA or whoever do what they do? It seems to me that you guys who left (or where removed, depending on the source) like to complain about the GOUSA more than what you are actually doing.

You're now a member of an "independent" lodge, how about some news on that front?

IN LVX,
Brad
1613 Nation
Grand Orient Egyptian- MEAPRMM

12:13 PM  
Blogger San Diego Freemason said...

I couldn't agree with you more Prexy. Sister Margaret's atheism should not have been mentioned at all. It is, and should be, a non-issue regarding her becoming a mason.

Actually it is unusual to mention anyone by name when they join a lodge. It's not normally advertised.

Great post!

8:07 PM  

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