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masonic matters

Is Freemasonry a Cult or Not?

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

“There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” -- Albert Schweitzer

“Knowledge, like religion, must be ‘’experienced’’ in order to be known.” Edwin P. Whipple

Is Freemasonry a Cult or Not?

“No true Mason scoffs at honest convictions and an ardent zeal in the cause of what one believes to be truth and justice.” Albert Pike; page 160L – Morals and Dogma

There are times when a Mason might be approached by a well meaning friend or relative, or a clergyman, and be asked if he knew that Freemasonry is a cult. There have been times when Masons have been approached by a well prepared anti-Mason who actually tells the Mason that Freemasonry is a cult and that if he is really a Christian he would at least drop out of the fraternity.

Part of the problem about charges against Freemasonry come about because the anti-Masons write books and booklets, and speak as though they are knowledgeable about Freemasonry, which our friends and relatives, when they hear what is said or written, tend to believe, because they think the speaker or author knows what he or she is talking about, and that they are telling the truth. As a result sometimes our friends and relatives will repeat these charges and ask or tell us about Freemasonry being a cult.

[Unless the Mason is an active Masonic student he might be stumped when this type of question is sprung on him all of a sudden. In fact the Anti-Masons count on that: They like to see a Mason ambushed, so to speak, and they encourage the believing friends and relatives to be prepared when they begin a conversation with a Mason about his Fraternity. In the book “The Lodge” Chapter 7 is titled “How to Witness to the Lodge Member;” there is even a practice dialog to teach them what to say, and what to ask and how to do it. They are to be prepared and not to allow the Mason to be prepared.]

A couple of the things our relatives and acquaintances don’t realize is that the anti-Masons are not as truthful as they might think, and also that the anti-Masons won’t be satisfied unless and until Freemasonry ceases to exist. That should be a cautionary note to all Freemasons; since this is the goal of the anti-Masons we should expect that we will need to deal with the false charges of the anti-Masons of the world for the rest of our lives.

The book I just mentioned, which was written by an anti-Mason, is for the purpose of instructing the average Christian about how to conduct a conversation with a Mason, and to lead him in becoming a former Mason.[i] It has some quotes from Morals and Dogma, but the quotes are in the form of inaccurate quotes by the use of proof-texting. To cite one example, the author on page 19 makes a case that Freemasonry is a religion by proof-texting[ii] Brother Albert Pike’s writings, found on page 231 of Morals and Dogma:  [I will add the text that was omitted, by typing it in red and underlining that portion of the text; if you have a copy of Morals and Dogma you should look the text up in your copy and check it out for yourself.]

“Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion;[iii]  for here are inculcated disinterestedness, affection, toleration, devotedness, patriotism, truth, a generous sympathy with those who suffer and morn, pity for the fallen, mercy for the erring, relief for those in want, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Here we meet as brethren to know and love each other. Here we greet each other gladly, are lenient to each other’s faults, regardful of each other’s feelings, ready to relieve each other’s wants. This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures. If unworthy passions, or selfish, bitter, or revengeful feelings, contempt, dislike, hatred, enter here, they are intruders and not welcome, strangers uninvited, and not guests.”

I hope you have read the above first buy reading only the portion used in the book ‘The Lodge,’ and then read it again including the red underlined words, which are all the words Brother Pike used in his book; when you do you will see the distortion used by the anti-Mason. The entire paragraph, as Brother Pike wrote it, would, it seems to me, be something every Mason in every Lodge should read and learn from; maybe then we would have less contention in many of our Lodges.

The anti-Mason always likes to point to Morals and Dogma, and sometimes, saying that it is the authoritative book on Freemasonry and that Albert Pike is the authoritative Masonic writer; but that’s not true, (Brother Albert Pike wrote about his own opinions relative to Freemasonry only,) but if it were true, the anti-Masons should note a couple of things in Morals and Dogma. One example is in the preface, where it says in part; “Everyone is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound.” Not every Mason has or wants to read Morals and Dogma, but everyone who does is expected to accept or reject it based on his own logic and intelligence. Another thing the anti-Mason shouldn’t overlook is on page 161, (161M,)[iv] where Brother Pike wrote: “Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it. The Brahmin, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Catholic, the Protestant, each professing his peculiar religion, sanctioned by the laws, by time, and by climate, must needs retain it, and cannot have two religions, for the social and sacred laws adapted to the usages, manners, and prejudices of particular countries, are the work of men.”

Something else the anti-Masons like to say is that Albert Pike was not a Christian, but on Page 134U of Morals and Dogma Brother Pike wrote: “Speak kindly of your erring brother! God pities him: Christ has died for him. Providence waits for him; and heaven’s spirits are ready to welcome him back with joy. Let your voice be in unison with all those powers that God is using for his recovery.” Does that sound like a man who tells Masons to worship a Masonic god? Does that sound like a man who was not religious, or not a Christian?

When it comes to religion Freemasonry expects every Mason to practice the religion of his choice; as Brother Pike wrote on page 161L of Morals and Dogma “It [Masonry] has taught no doctrines, except those truths that tend directly to the well being of man.” On page 162M of Morals and Dogma and continuing through page 163U Brother Pike writes about what a good Mason will do; because of lack of space I won’t reproduce it here, but you should read it. The point is that what Brother Pike is writing about is a Mason doing “the good thing when it comes his way, because it comes his way” he is not saying anything about religion or that deeds pave the way to an afterlife. The instruction about the afterlife is in the domain of a religion, and each Mason should get his religious instruction from his religion, and through the clergy of that religion. (See the quote above.) A verse I like from the Great Light of Masonry, the Holy Bible, is James 2:18 “But some will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds,’ show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” NIV

Another example of using proof-texting to prove the anti-Mason’s point about the supposed evils of Freemasonry, and a good example of how the anti-Masons tend to twist facts and information to fit their own view of Freemasonry, is again from Morals and Dogma; on page 226. Again I will underline and put in red the text the author of ‘The Lodge’ did not use: “Masonry, around whose altars the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahmin, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer to the one god who is above all the Baalim,[v] must needs leave it to each of its Initiates to look for the foundation of his faith and hope to the written scriptures of his own religion.”

That is just the text that was left out of one sentence; (I should add that in the book, by the anti-Masonic author, he put a period at the end of the word god, when it obviously was only part of a sentence.) The other two sentences of the paragraph are well worth reading, so if you have a copy of Morals and Dogma read the rest of the paragraph on page 226 in the middle of the page, (226M.) If you don’t have a copy but do have a computer, you can find Morals and Dogma as an E-book at:

Back to the point about anti-Masons saying we are a cult. Lets look at what the dictionary says a cult is: “Worship; now a particular of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies; hence an instance of its fixed, almost religious veneration for a person or a thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers as of something mystically heroic grew up after his death; also the object of such devotion.[vi] From another dictionary: Cult – 1. A system or community of religious worship and ritual, especially one focusing upon a single deity or spirit. 2 a. Obsessive devotion or veneration for a person, principle or ideal. 2 b. The object of such devotion. 3 a. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric[vii] interest. 3 b. The object of such an interest. 4. Any fashion or fad; often used derogatorily.[viii]

As you can see the charge that Freemasonry is a cult comes from the fact that the anti-Masons claim that Freemasonry is a religion; so it seems to me it is the same old story and charge dressed in different clothing, which they think will be more effective in turning people against Masonry.

Let’s take a look at those definitions just a little bit: Freemasonry is not ‘Worship’ in any stretch of the imagination, and it is not a religion; more on this in just a little bit. Freemasonry is, however, an exclusive group of people who share an esoteric interest, (being we are men, older than a certain minimum age, who believe in God.) I’m particularly pleased about that about Freemasonry, and it is summed up in the slogan I use at the bottom of the publication “Masonic Matters”: “Political Freedom, Religious Tolerance, Personal Integrity; Freemasonry – it’s not for everyone.” Freemasonry isn’t for everyone; maybe that’s what irritates some people who are anti-Masons. Anyway, I would agree that definition 3a (above) does describe my fraternity. Having said that; none of the other definitions describe Freemasonry, or what Freemasonry is. However, maybe definition 2a might describe the anti-Mason and the anti-Masonic movement: Could anti-Masonry be a cult? I’ll leave it to others to answer that question, but at one time anti-Masonry did become a political party, so who knows what it is, or might become.

In the first example, above, in the proof-texting of Brother Pike’s words, you will note that he does not say that Freemasonry is a religion; Brother Pike wrote that “every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion.” Another quote of his I used says in part; “Masonry is not a religion.”

Freemasonry’s teachings are instruction to its initiates about Freemasonry’s tenets, virtues, and values, which are not necessarily teaching in or about any particular religion. I don’t think I’m splitting hairs here, but teaching principles of our fraternity, which may agree with a religion is not the same as being a religion. Having said that, one dictionary[ix] defines religions as “1. The expression of man’s belief in, and reverence for, a superhuman power, or powers, regarded as creating or governing the universe. 2. Any personal or institutionalized system of beliefs or practices embodying this belief or reverence: the Hindu Religion. 3. The spiritual or emotional attitude of one who recognizes the existence of a superhuman power or powers. 4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or contentious devotion: A collector might make a religion of art. 5. The monastic way of life. 6. Archaic. Sacred rites or practices.”

Those definitions of religion don’t describe Freemasonry either. The third definition might describe me, as a person who has a religion and believes what it teaches, but that does not describe any organization I am a member of.

To learn more about what Freemasonry’s position is on religion you can read about it in the Masonic Manual of Minnesota online on the web site for the Grand Lodge of MN, which is my jurisdiction at: I’m certain other jurisdictions have a similar statement of the official position on various subjects, so you could read it from your Grand Lodge too.

Is Freemasonry a cult? No! Not in any way shape or form! Remember Freemasonry can stand up to examination and scrutiny of what it is and what it stands for; it is the unfounded and unsound charges leveled against it by the anti-Masons that can’t stand up to examination by an objective researcher looking for the truth.

The examples I gave above about the anti-Masons using proof-texting on various portions of Morals and Dogma are not isolated examples; they are just some of many that most devout anti-Masons will use to deceive their readers by changing passages of text to prove their point, and to change what someone wrote to make it say something that wasn’t really said by the person they’re quoting.

Should we be concerned with the tactics and statements the anti-Masons use against Freemasonry, or should we just chalk it up to uniformed and ineffectual people just trying to make money off of slamming Freemasonry? Every Mason will need to answer that for himself, but as for me I don’t think we can afford to ignore the damage the anti-Masons intend to do to our Fraternity. I also think all we need to do is to look at the history of anti-Masons throughout the world and the history of Freemasonry here in the United States; when we do we will see where Freemasons have been persecuted, jailed and executed, and we will see that here in the U.S., and other parts of the free world, that our membership has been in a steady decline.

Every year our membership declines; some of the reasons for declining membership such as deaths we have no control over. However, when it comes to demits, and members being dropped for non-payment of dues, we do have some control there if we try to find out why they have stopped paying their dues; why they have asked for a demit; why they aren’t coming to meetings; and why they aren’t at our social functions, and possibly other questions I can’t think of right now, but you could think of. I will suggest that it is possible that it is because of the activities of the anti-Masons that some of our decline has occurred: As it says in the book “New World Order: The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies”[x] [I’m sure you’ll be interested in this.] “Those of us who criticize, however, must remember to never paint the members of these organizations with too broad a brush. Fortunately there are very few completely evil men in this world. The vast majority of members in these groups are merely deceived. Their minds can be changed when presented with the truth. It’s important to remember that the people best able of helping the machinations of the secret societies are its members.” There are, thankfully, very few evil men in this world; but some who many think were evil were also anti-Masons: Adolph Hitler; Benito Mussolini; Francisco Franco; and the Ayatollah Khomeini; to name only a few who come to mind now; these are some of the men who were anti-Masons. I wonder how many of today’s anti-Masons are happy to be associated with that group.

When it comes to pressure being applied by a Mason’s family in some way, or by his church, it is possible that something is going to give: It could be he will be on the outs with his family members over his Masonic Membership, or it could be he would switch to a more Masonic friendly house of worship, or he might even stop being friends with those who try to convert him from being a Mason: But I think it is more likely he is likely to yield to the pressures of family, friends, and clergy, and then we will wonder why we have another brother who stopped showing up at Lodge functions, and eventually wonder why he requested a demit, or stopped paying his dues, so that the Lodge had to remove him from membership.

Education is the answer: By providing good solid honest information to Masons, their families, friends, and clergy, we can combat the falsehoods told about us by the anti-Masons, as well as those well meaning people who hear and believe what the anti-Masons speak and write about. There are more Masons than anti-Masons, but there are more non-Masons[xi] than Masons and, in my opinion, there are not enough Masons who are sufficiently educated in Freemasonry so that they can talk with confidence about what Masonry is and accurately speak the truth about false charges and claims. We need knowledgeable Masons who can tell all who are interested about Freemasonry, what it is, what it isn’t, and what it stands for.

I would recommend that Masons read the books and booklets that the anti-Masons write and publish, so that you know what they are saying about Freemasonry. But when you do, be objective and don’t get upset. You then have the opportunity to study and research to find out for yourself what the truth is. Masons are seekers of truth, and we need to provide the truth to the people the anti-Masons are trying to influence; this is best done by interested Masons being well versed in what the anti-Masons are saying and doing as well as being well versed in what Freemasonry really is and what it stands for. Go ahead and investigate Freemasonry; it can stand up to investigation and inquiry; the false charges of the anti-Masons can’t.

“Moral Evil is Falsehood in action; as Falsehood is Crime in words. Injustice is the essence of Falsehood; and every false word is an injustice. Injustice is the death of the Moral Being, as Falsehood is the poison of the Intelligence.” - Albert Pike: page 100L Morals and Dogma.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014