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Anti-Masonry is a term used to describe critical objection to the existence of the system of Freemasonic fraternities, their practices, and their philosophies. It also refers to political movements aimed at the abolition of Masonry or the curtailment of its social influence (see Anti-Masonic Party).

The arguments against Masonry are many and varied, and some are discussed below:


Religious Tolerance

Opinions about Freemasonry around the world may differ from place to place, but Freemasons always stress non dogmatism and tolerance (albeit often within certain defined limits). This openness has led to friction between Freemasonry and organizations which hold a negative view on ecumenism, or are themselves intolerant towards other forms of belief and worship. Masons have been opposed throughout history by various religious groups, such as some Protestants and certain Muslims.

The most vigorous opposition to the fraternity, however, has come from the Catholic Church.

The first papal condemnation of Freemasonry came in 1738 from Pope Clement XII in his papal bull "Eminenti Apostolatus Specula", repeated by several later popes, notably Pope Leo XIII in the "encyclical Humanum Genus" (1884).

The 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly declares that joining Freemasonry entailed automatic excommunication; the revised Code issued in 1983 does not explicitly name Masonic orders among the secret societies condemned in canon 1374.

However, in a letter to the United States Bishops from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the interpretation was made clear—the prohibition against Catholics joining Masonic orders remains. Many Catholic Masons in the US choose to rely on the letter of the law. Masons on the other hand do not exclude any view of a religious hierarchy so long as it is headed by a supreme being.

One reason the Free Methodist Church was founded in the 1860s was that its founders believed the Methodist Church was being influenced by Freemasons and members of secret societies. The Free Methodist Church continues to prohibit its members from also joining societies such as the Freemasons. Recently the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest association of Baptists in the United States, also stated that participation in Freemasonry is inconsistent with its beliefs.

This form of criticism has been markedly reduced since modern nation states like the USA and Europe in general are founded on religious tolerance, and many adherents of the religions that formally opposed Masons now believe in the main Masonic principles.

Political conspiracy theories involving the Masons

Nowadays, the main theme of anti-Masonic criticism involves the idea that Masons involve their organization in covert political activities. This assumption has been influenced by the assertion of Masons that many political figures in the past 300 years have been Masons. Opinions vary between opposing theories concerning this paradox.

Some say the Masons constantly plot to increase their power and wealth, others say the Masonic Brotherhood is engaged in a plot to produce a new world order of a type different (usually more sinister) than the existing world order. These theories would be possible to describe almost any secret society (since a society with secret meetings allows secret coordination, the very essence of a conspiracy). Nevertheless, Masons have been the largest target because of their size and notable membership.

The historical complaints that the Masons have secretly plotted to create society based on their ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity, and religious tolerance, are not denied by Masons. In an enlightened age many have now accepted the core Masonic values as stated, and persistent enemies of the society have been forced to come up with more sinister motives as to what Freemasons allegedly conspire to achieve.

Criticisms of Masonic 'Cronyism'

Another criticism that may or not have to do with the specific nature of Freemasonry, but may be applied generally to any type of organization or secret society, is the practice of cronyism, or giving favors to fellow members. Anecdotely many have the impression that one increases chances for employment by joining the Masons. This type of cronyism can be seen in the movie "Gypsie", where possibly not talking about the Freemasons, but referencing fraternities like the Moose Lodge, the general idea is alluded to. Unscrupulous Masons have been known to claim they can get out of driving tickets because of Masonic logos on their car. Again, this criticism can be easily applied to almost any fraternity, but the Masons are a big target because they are not simply based in colleges, because they are the largest fraternity, and because they are worldwide.

Criticisms based on the moral faults of known Masons

Although an institution with religious overtones can be criticized for the moral faults of some of its members, Freemasonry is liable to criticism especially because amongst it aims is the drive to improve its members morality, above and beyond whatever religion the individual member might profess his preference for.

A general fault ascribed to the Masons is that a freemason would be charitable mainly to other Masons, an assumption which is made worse by the class and racial inequalities sometimes leveled against in Masonic lodges. The phrase 'charity begins at home' goes some way to justify this natural proclivity.

Critics attack what they perceive as a preoccupation in ritual minutiae and personal status (ie. degree, a concept critics call similar to the thrill of an RPG level) within the hierarchy of the organization. Some critics argue that the Freemasons are primarily a social club. All of these arguments however can be said to have the logical fallacy commonly applied to Christians (and indeed, practically all religions) - that, if certain members of a group are bad, the group itself must be bad.

Criticism that Freemasonry is a new religion

In a sectarian age many hold that Freemasonry is a new religion. Externally it has many similarities to what many people consider to be a religion: it has its own way of saying "amen" ("So mote it be", the literal translation of "amen"), it has far more developed rituals then most Protestant denominations, some groups of Masons (especially the Scottish rite) call their lodges "temples", and it has a large amount of iconography and symbolism. From the perspective of most religions, who feel that they have the perfect system of morality, any competing system of morality can be considered opposed to them—and if not stricly another religion, then certainly an opponent.

Such ritual observances as practiced by Masons in private meetings should be seen in the same context as rituals maintained in the military services, in government and civil authorities. It has been argued that any organized system of morality (which the Masons claim to be) is a religion; the Green Party might thus qualify as such.

Criticism that Freemasonry worships Satan

While the practice of any given magical or mystical system is not particularly associated with Freemasonry (mainstream Masonry has always tended more to rationalism than to mysticism), there are some groups of Masons, such as Masonic Rosicrucians, that may interpret Masonic ritual magically (or "hermetically"), which is their right as Masons, given the fraternity's non-dogmatic stance.

The very existence of hermetic interpretations within Masonry has lead some Christians to label Freemasonry as "Satanic". This charge is commonly made about any hermetic society with practices reserved for the initated.

Many Anti-Masonic activists quote Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma to "prove" that Masons worship Lucifer. The oft-quoted section (Chapt. XIX; p.321) reads:

The Apocalypse is, to those who receive the nineteenth Degree, 
the Apotheosis of that Sublime Faith which aspires to God alone, 
and despises all the pomps and works of Lucifer. LUCIFER, the 
Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit 
of Darknesss! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who 
bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable blinds feeble, 
sensual or selfish Souls ? Doubt it not! for traditions are full of 
Divine Revelations and Inspirations: and Inspiration is not of 
one Age nor of one Creed. Plato and Philo, also, were inspired.

Critics that cite this as evidence of Freemasonry's Satanic leanings ignore the first part of the passage while emphasizing the association of Lucifer with Light. Alternately the argument is made that because a Pike claims the works of Plato and Philo were as divinely inspired as the The Apocalypse of Saint John and b that Plato and Philo were pre-Christian pagans and c that all pagan beliefs are satanic, therefore d Pike (and Freemasonry) practice Satan worship.

Another satanic quote attributed to Pike reads:

"That which we must say to the world is that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him?
"Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive.
"Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil."

This quote is a part of the Taxil hoax. It was fraudulently published as an excerpt of a letter by Pike, the "Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry". In reality Pike was Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of the American Scottish Rite. "Universal Freemasonry" per se does not exist.

The Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned Freemasonry, and although not claiming that it is directly Satanic, the church has claimed that Freemasonry has "led on or assisted" "partisans of evil" (from Humanum Genus).

Criticism of masonic blood oaths

The traditional Masonic obligations, said to be undertaken by a candidate during the initiation ritual, are sometimes called "blood oaths", particularly by those critical of the fraternity. The candidate wishes severe physical punishment upon himself should he ever reveal the secrets of Freemasonry to a non-Mason. While many non-Masons are horrified by this, Masons defend the traditional obligations as no more literal than the commonplace childhood "blood oaths", like "cross my heart and hope to die"—a very psychologically powerful way to express a serious bond or promise.

In addition, some Masons argue that the bloody punishments mentioned in the obligations are, historically, references to the punishments that the state used to inflict on defenders of civil liberties and religious freedoms, such as Freemasons. But in spite of repeated attempts to defend them, by the early 1980s, the "blood oaths" had become quite problematic from a public relations standpoint, and most Masonic jurisdictions replaced them with more politically correct "bloodless oaths".

Certain conspiracy theorists look at certain historical killings and deduce that they were done as a fulfillment of the blood oath. In particular, Jack the Ripper is theorized by some to have been a Mason made psychotic for having to carry out a blood oath, and who then killed random people in the same fashion.

It should be noted that there are only 3 penalties that Masonry can impose on a member—censure, suspension of membership and expulsion.

Criticisms of the process of becoming a Freemason

It is commonly held that individuals become Freemasons through invitation, patrimony, or other non-democratic means, officially an individual must ask freely and without persuasion to become a Freemason in order to join the fraternity.

This arrangement is said to conflict with the Freemasons mission to "make good men better", on the basis that a hidden society can not promote itself publicly. If the society is secret, it is argued, how is a good man supposed to be attracted to it?

In practice, Freemasons have been known to not question the motives of anyone seeking to enter, but clearly members are going to prefer invitation to those individuals who can offer something of value to the group, and will thus indicate to potential members some clue, it is then incumbent upon the seeker to make the request.

The view that, in order to join the Society, one must "... be the son of a ... [Freemason]", is logical, such a method goes some way to explain how often membership is extended to newcomers. This method shadows the traditions of peerage.

Many of these myths have taken hold in the imagination of "conspiracy buffs" partly because Freemasons, like government intelligence agencies and big business, understanding the value of misinformation, let the uninitiated argue amongst themselves, so that the truth remains private. Masons have only attempted in recent years to make their organization seem more open to public view, but remain non-committal beyond their own objectives of diverting government scrutiny and validating good public relations.

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In defense of liberty

It has been said that "the Freemason builds his life around the moral principals that lie at the heart of the Craft, and becomes in his every word and deed the epitome of brotherly love, relief and truth ~ he will thus respect the rights of others to hold beliefs and attitudes that differ radically from his own, for he knows that tolerance is an essential part of brotherly love."

(Freemasonry, A Celebration of the Craft'~ 1993. Edited by Hamill & Gilbert for Terry Allan).

The need for vigilance in the defense of human liberty is as great in society as it is said to be within the craft, yet by means of an increased compatibility with the common aims of human achievement the Freemasons have indisputably laid the foundations for very many of the cultural norms prevalent in the western World.

The duty of Masons to "give to the cause of Charity" was stressed by William Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry of 1772, when he wrote: "To relive the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Freemasons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection.

"To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries and to restore their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view."

A Mason's duty is also in his loyalty, as a peaceful subject, to the civil authority found wherever he resides or works, and it is on these grounds, restrained from pursuing any means of disrupting the established rule of law, that Freemasonry is itself a reformist institution, its members abstaining from any thought of association with rebellion, the cause of the common man, when oppressed.

"Masonic Ritual" is reported as an aspect of the craft that reinforces its Spiritual dimension and is Biblical in origin, (but is claimed to derive from sources of a pre Christian age, whence evolved Cabalistic thought). A legend considered of great import to the Masonic Rite is that of the story of the building and reconstruction of King Solomon's Temple—as an allegory of the creation of a new, just and more tolerant society.

Many Freemasons Discriminate Against Atheists

The second great schism in Freemasonry occurred in the years following 1877, when the GOdF started accepting atheists unreservedly. While the issue of atheism is probably the greatest single factor in the split with the GOdF, the English also point to the French recognition of women's Masonry and co-Masonry, as well as the tendency of French Masons to be more willing to discuss religion and politics in Lodge. While the French curtail such discussion, they do not ban it as outright as do the English 3 ( The schism between the two branches has occasionally been breached for short periods of time, especially during the First World War when American Masons overseas wanted to be able to visit French Lodges 4 (

Concerning religious requirements, the oldest constitution of Freemasonry (that of Anderson, 1723) says only that a Mason "will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine" if he "rightly understands the Art". The only religion required was "that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves" 5 ( Masons disagree as to whether "stupid" and "irreligious" are meant as necessary or as accidental modifiers of "atheist" and "libertine". It is possible the ambiguity is intentional. In 1815, the newly amalgamated UGLE changed Anderson's constitutions to include more orthodox overtones: "Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believes in the glorious Architect of heaven and earth, and practices the sacred duties of morality." The English enforce this with a requirement for belief in a Supreme Being, and in his revealed will. While these requirements can still be interpreted in a non-theistic manner, they made it more difficult for unorthodox believers to enter the fraternity.

In 1849, the GOdF followed the English lead by adopting the "Supreme Being" requirement, but there was increasing pressure in Latin countries to openly admit atheists. There was an attempt at a compromise in 1875, by allowing the alternative phrase "Creative Principle" (which was less theistic-sounding than "Supreme Being"), but this was ultimately not enough for the GOdF, and in 1877 they went back to having no religious entrance requirements, adopting the original Anderson document of 1723 as their official Constitutions. They also created a modified ritual that made no direct verbal reference to the G.A.O.T.U. (although, as a symbol, it was arguably still present). This new Rite did not replace the older ones, but was added as an alternative (European jurisdictions in general tend not to restrict themselves to a single Rite, like most North American jurisdictions, but offer a menu of Rites, from which their Lodges can choose.)

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