Of Politics and Religion
In Freemasonry there are certain basic rules and principles called “Landmarks”, which cannot be changed, or repealed, or amended by any Mason, Lodge, or Grand Lodge. These Landmarks are an expression of that which belongs to Masonry’s identity. If they were removed, Masonry would cease to be Masonry.
The most important of these Landmarks is listed ‘first’ in the Old Charges of the Free and Accepted Masons.
It reads thus;
“A Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the Moral Law, as a true Noahida; and if he rightly understands the Craft, he will never be a Stupid Atheist, nor an Irreligious Libertine, nor act against Conscience.
In ancient times the Christian Masons were charged to comply with the Christian Usage of each Country where they travelled or worked: But Masonry being found in all Nations, even of diverse Religions, they are now charged to adhere to that Religion in which all Men agree, that is, to be good men and true, men of honour and honesty, by whatever names, religions or persuasions they may be distinguished: For they all agree in the three great articles of Noah, enough to preserve the cement of the Lodge. Thus Masonry is the centre of their union and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance.”
This is in fact one of the most important of all the Landmarks. We cannot question a candidate as to his own particular beliefs in religion or politics, nor can we discuss such matters at any of our meetings. In fact, we are forbidden, as Masons, to participate in any form of religious or political sectarianism.
This is right, as Masons, we are forbidden to participate in religious or political sectarianism. To what aim is this prohibition directed? It prohibits all Masons from sectarian controversies in any form whatsoever. Such controversies are unmasonic, that is they are an outright violation of Masonic law.
An initiate must pledge himself to a belief in a Supreme Being and he must revere his particular V. S. L., which he regards as the rule, and guide for his life. The doctrinal interpretations that he may place on those beliefs must, however, be left entirely to him. So also must he pledge himself to good citizenship; but his choice of political party through which he works for the realization of his ideal of good citizenship must be left entirely to him.
This last statement appears to conflict, with my earlier statement that Freemasonry prohibits participation in sectarianism. Such a prohibition also seems to conflict with Freemasonry’s ideals of enlightenment and education, free will and free thought.
One would question why such a diverse group of men of experience, and broad ranging opinions would deny themselves the opportunity to seek that, which is, right and true. Which appears to be the goal of Freemasonry. Yet, any discussion of a religious or political nature is forbidden to us, men of free will and thought.
Well, it is these last two attributes, which necessitates that prohibition. Free will and free thought. As individuals we know that one belief is truer than another, that one opinion is better grounded than another; and we want that truth to prevail. Furthermore, we know that the truth can never emerge unless every man is left free to seek the facts for himself, to think for himself, to speak for himself, to confront life’s realities for himself. Every human mind must be free to observe the world for itself. This, Freemasonry believes, is the only way in which the truth about any of the great subjects of human life will ever be found.
So, this freedom of thought and will certainly appears in conflict with a prohibition, that such subjects are not numerous topics of discussion in a Masonic Lodge with a clear view of seeking that true opinion or true belief seems to belie the fact that Masons seek truth.
It may, to the casual observer, be seen as a conflict. But.
This is not a prohibition taken lightly. It is taken with a view of the great Masonic ideal of toleration. Tolerance has always been one of the tenets of Freemasonry. Tolerance does not mean that one belief is as good as another is, or is as true as another is, or is as valuable as another is. Nor does Freemasonry advocate a general indifference to any belief, or opinion. Freemasonry does not take a stand for either. The individual Mason does, so how does the individual Mason reconcile his strong beliefs of these subjects with Freemasonry’s Landmark?
Through understanding of the Landmark, it is not difficult to understand the reason for this Landmark. Freemasonry exists for the sake of, is dedicated and devoted to, the life of brotherhood. Brotherhood means that many of us, men drawn from all walks of life, with a great variety of racial characteristics and religious and political opinions, are brought together and keep together, in a relationship of friendship, harmony and goodwill. To maintain that harmony it is essential that passions and prejudices that might divide us into opposing groups, schisms or conflicting cliques must be kept out. It is well known that nothing is more likely to divide and alienate men than religious or political sectarianism. Sectarianism is prohibited because the needs and the welfare of brotherhood demand it.
And it is for these reasons that Freemasons, men of free will and free thought, understand and support this prohibition.
Thank you Brethren,
Bro. Wm. David Maddin
District Masonic Education,
Beaverhills District, G.R.A.