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Truth and Tolerance

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“Does our ferocity not derive from the fact that our instincts are all too interested in other people? If we attended more to ourselves and became the centre, the object of our murderous inclinations, the sum of our intolerances would diminish.”
E. M. Cioran, Philosopher

“Intolerance is a form of egotism, and to condemn egotism intolerantly is to share it.” George Santayana, Philosopher

“No human trait deserves less tolerance in everyday life, and gets less, than intolerance.” Giacomo Leopardi, Scholar

Truth and Tolerance

Brother W.H Rylands in the late 1800’s once remarked something to the effect that symbolism is the happy hunting ground for the imaginative. However, Masons shouldn’t let a remark like that dissuade them from learning from the symbolism of Masonry.

What do you think of when you see a cross with one upright and two crossbars, such as on the cap of a 33° Mason of the Scottish Rite? It reminds me of two T’s, which gets me thinking of Truth and Tolerance, two very important lessons in Freemasonry.

A community is a society; masonic lodges are a community just as houses of worship are a community; people banded together for a common cause are a community and society of like minded people: Author Harry G. Franfurt in his book “on Truth” says “No society can afford to despise or to disrespect the truth.” He further remarks that a society must provide encouragement and support for capable individuals [Masonic and truth students ] to devote themselves to acquiring and exploiting significant truths. The society of Freemasons has been doing that for centuries.

Freemasonry as a community and society certainly respects and teaches the importance of truth; in fact ‘Truth’ is one the three principle tenets of Freemasonry: What other society has that as a tenet? Freemasons are known as seekers of truth; we are truth students. Seeking the truth and adhering to truth is sacrosanct among Masons. Freemasons are also a tolerant society of men; tolerant people naturally seem to be respecters of truth. Truth and Tolerance go hand-in-hand.

Possibly this is one reason why Freemasons find it so repugnant when we see truth being abused by so many of the anti-this and anti-that in the world. We know all too well about the falsities spread about Freemasonry among members of some religions. It is always surprising to learn that there are clergy and other religious people who deliberately disrespect the truth enough to bend and break it to serve their purposes.

I was nose-to-nose with some men recently who were practicing religious intolerance by bashing the Muslim religion. It was a sad episode. There is always some good that comes from bad situations; the good was I remembered how fortunate I’ve been to be a Freemason, and how thankful I am that the Brothers of my ‘home lodge’ elected me to receive the degrees and then conferred them on me; these were milestone events in my life. You may feel the same sense of thankfulness that I do, and possibly that is a reason why Masons are so reluctant to demit from the ‘home lodge’ when we move throughout the world as our lives progress; our ‘home lodge’ might represent to us our first love of Masonry.

The incident that I referred to above happened, of all places, in a church building over coffee after the church service. Houses of worship are not only for the righteous or the perfect, they are for the rest of us who struggle day by day to live up to the teachings of our various religions. However, when in a house of worship, as in a Masonic Lodge, we should do our best to keep the lessons taught close at hand, so we can learn them, and demonstrate this by being on our best behavior.

This sad episode of Islam bashing happened after church in the fellowship hall of a church Sharon and I were visiting while we were traveling. Had we sat at a different table we would have had a much more enjoyable experience. After the hello’s I could hardly believe what transpired between these other two men; it was obvious that they were not Masons.

The conversation of the two men over coffee reminded me of something my late friend and brother, Most Worshipful Brother Rodney Larson, once said; ‘Masons should always be ready to defend any religion against attacks.’ A statement like that speaks the truth, and I agree with him. I try my best to stay out of disagreements but there are times when the truth needs to be pointed out, (in a kind way, of course,) when false information about a religion is being taught and then used in a mean way, which religion bashing is.

I’m no expert on the Qur'an, which I spell as Koran, but I do read in it from time to time. The Talmud says a wise person learns from everyone; I think there is something to learn from the Koran as well as the Talmud, and the Holy Bible.

The bashing of Islam I heard included, of course, totally false information about Islam and the Koran. These two men were repeating many of the false statements that were circulating about Islam after the September 11th attack by terrorists, of which some of the same falsities resurfaced this past election season here in America.

I read an E-Koran at One of the more knowledgeable men I know on the Koran and Islam is our good brother, Worshipful Brother Rashied Bey, who has always been a great resource for questions relating to Islam.

One of the myths about Islam is how the Koran teaches hatred of other religions, in particular Christianity and Judaism. In an email a few years back (June 2005) Brother Rashied answered such a charge by citing two passages from the Koran. The E-Koran I read on is the 1876 translation by J.M. Rodwell.

One of the passages cited by Brother Rashied is Surah 2: verse 62 (Surah 2:62) “Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish, and the Christians, and the Sabians; any who believe in G-d and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” If you go to to view the E-Koran I read you will see this translation: “Verily, they who believe (Muslims), and they who follow the Jewish religion, and the Christians, and the Sabeites, whoever of these believeth in God and the last day, and doeth that which is right, shall have their reward with their Lord: fear shall not come upon them, neither shall they be grieved.” You will see that while the translations differ slightly they convey the same message; the message is not about hatred but of tolerance and understanding.

The other passage from the Koran Brother Rashied shared in his email is from Surah 2:136 “Say ye: 'We believe in G-d, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses, and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them; and we submit to G-d.”

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are three distinct and separate religions, but they do have many similarities, and their adherents are all children of the same creator.

As Freemasons, seekers of truth who embrace the tenet of truth and the principle of tolerance, we know that societies that honor truth survive; religions, such as the three I have mentioned, have survived; they each honor and respect truth, and they are tolerant of each other, which is evidenced by the many Interfaith groups throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries. We as Freemasons need to keep letting our friends and families know that Freemasonry embraces Truth and Tolerance.

“Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often as intolerance.” Henry Ward Beecher, Preacher

From the Great light of Masonry = “But first I will tell you what is written in the book of truth.” Daniel 10:21 NIV

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Last modified: March 22, 2014