It is often asked “Is Freemasonry A Religion”. The answer is simple, and disappointing to some. No, Freemasonry is not a religion.
It is often asked “Is Freemasonry A Religion”. The answer is simple, and disappointing to some. No, Freemasonry is not a religion. Freemasonry does have spiritual aspects including biblical symbolism that originates from the symbolism used to build cathedrals in the middle ages, but it is not in fact a religion.
To further illustrate that Freemasonry is not a religion, we can look at the definition of religion from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.
1a: the service and worship of God or the supernatural
1b: commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3archaic : scrupulous conformity
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faithMerriam-Webster’s definition of Religion
Is Freemasonry A Religion?
Freemasonry does not hold services to God, or worship God at our meetings. We do however respect God and invoke his blessing at our meetings, however this is very different than a worship service, or a meeting designed to praise God, so Freemasonry clearly does not meet that qualification of being a religion.
Freemasonry does not mandate any faith or observance, only that you believe in God, and that you have your own faith and observance of that God. So again, we find that Masonry is not meeting the definition of Religion here.
Similarly, we do not provide an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, or practices. These belong to each man individually, and our members are not allowed to influence or bias any of the spiritual portions of Freemasonry with their particular understanding of God, or how to observe God. The only religions this may come in conflict with, are those that A) do not want their members associating with members of other faiths, or B) believe it is their members duty to try to convert anyone and everyone to their faith.
Freemasonry takes freedom of Religion very seriously, and as such we would be a limitation for anyone who met either of these criteria. This is often why we get labelled as a Religion by some; not because we actually practice as a religion, but we limit some, more extreme, religious view points, when in our meetings. What our members do outside of our meetings is entirely up to them.
Religions generally require conformity, and while there is some structure to Masonic membership, Freemasonry encourages membership of free men, who think and operate freely as individuals. Their spiritual and political beliefs can, and do, vary widely. Yet another example of Freemasonry not living up to the definition of a religion.
Lastly, Freemasonry does not tell its members how to think, or what to think. The beliefs of the members, regardless of the members is theirs and theirs alone. Often times, some will quote Freemasons understandings, or speculations on what certain degrees may mean. They will point to these instances as a sign that these are the “official” beliefs of Freemasons. They are not. They are only the speculations of that Freemason. All Masons are free to take the side of any viewpoint of any Freemasons interpretation of our ceremonies, but the answers are not prescribed, and they do not inform you how to think about your God or your religion.
Legally Freemasonry Is NOT A Religion
Freemasonry has actually been determined in a court of law to not be a religion. In a 1921 decision, the Supreme Court of Nebraska, in the case of the Scottish Rite Building Company vs. Lancaster County. When determining if the Scottish Rite should have to pay taxes on their property, the court ruled that Freemasonry was not a religion.
The guiding thought is not religion but religious toleration …. The Masonic fraternity refrains from intruding into the field of religion and confines itself to the teaching of morality and duty to one’s fellow men, which makes better men and better citizens.
The distinction is clear between such ethical teachings and the doctrines of religion. One cannot espouse a religion without belief and faith in its peculiar doctrines. A fraternity broad enough to take in and cover with its mantle Christian, Moslem and Jew, without requiring him to renounce his religion, is not a religious organization, although its members may join in prayer which, in the case of each, is a petition addressed to his own Deity. Neither can the belief in the immortality of the soul be denominated religious in the sense that it is typical of any religion, of any race, or of any age. It constitutes one of the most beautiful and consoling features of our own religion, but it is equally found in almost every other. It is so unusual and spontaneous that it is not so much belief or dogma as it is an instinct of the human soul. Neither does it imply or require adherence to any system of religious worship.
The fact that belief in the doctrines or deity of no particular religion is required, of itself refutes the theory that the Masonic ritual embodies a religion, or that its teachings are religious.”Scottish Rite Building Company vs. Lancaster County, 106 Nebraska 95, 184 N.W. 574 (1921)
We hope that this provides clarity on the subject of if Freemasonry is a religion, with the official and definitive answer being “NO”. It does not meet any of the definitions of being a religion, and it has also been legally ruled as not being a religion.
For those who may still question this, we would leave you with this question: If Freemasonry was a religion don’t you think we would try to get the tax write off?