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more light #340


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

Here is a question to get you thinking; you might want to look in a book or two for the answer: “Which President has the most cities or towns named for him?”[i] The answer is in the endnotes below.

“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” George Washington, letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, 1790

Definition of Freemasonry

“Freemasonry of today is a philosophic or speculative science derived from, and issuing out of an operative art. It is a science of symbolism founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue advocating Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.” Dr. & Brother Rustom S. Davar, Past Deputy Grand Master, G.L. of India


A clergyman recently observed that 16% of the population admits to being atheists, agnostics, or nothing at all when it comes to religious affiliation; he was speaking of the United States of America. 16% of the population of the United States represents about 50 million people. It’s very unlikely those 50 million people would be prospective members of any Masonic affiliated society; however the other 84% would.[ii]

The first of Brother and Reverend James Anderson’s Charges of 1723[iii] says: “A Mason is obliged by his tenure[iv], to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet tis’ now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion on which all men agree leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the center of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.”

Like almost everything in Freemasonry there is much to study and learn in just that 1st charge from 1723. Studying to learn, use, and apply, gives Masons the tools to improve themselves, and through that improvement we can use what we learn to improve the lives of our loved-ones and everyone we interact with better than we could have done without the lessons of Masonry. When one reads the First Charge of the Premiere Grand Lodge of 1717 it’s no wonder Regular Masonry is so proud to be descended from the Grand Lodge of England – the Premiere Grand Lodge.

In just 5 years we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge; it’s not too soon to mark St. John’s Day 2017[v] on your Lodge and personal calendar for some sort of event to commemorate this important anniversary of the founding of the Premiere Grand Lodge, which has contributed so much to the Free-World.

Brother Mackey in his list of Landmarks says in part about landmark #19: “A belief in the existence of God as the Great Architect of the Universe is one of the most important landmarks of the order. It has always been deemed essential that a denial of the existence of a Supreme or Superintending Power is an absolute disqualification for initiation. The annals of the order never yet have furnished or could furnish an instance in which an avowed atheist was ever made a Freemason.”

Men in society come from all sorts of backgrounds, and are formed by many factors; family, education, environment, friends: Possibly it is these various factors, which tend to lead a man to be either a person of religion or one who might become a non-believer; an atheist. Every Regular Freemason knows that an atheist cannot be made a Mason in regular speculative Freemasonry.

Some Time ago I received a question from a Brother Mason asking about the term ‘Stupid Atheist.’ I did some research and was able to answer his question, but while I answered it, with what I felt was satisfactory information, I had this nagging feeling that there was more to learn about the word ‘stupid’ being attached to the word ‘atheist.’ The answer I gave him was filed electronically for more research. I was able to get some additional information on the subject of atheism; eventually I found more information on the term ‘stupid atheist.’

A great Masonic Research group to join is the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle[vi] (QCCC); correspondence circle members get copies of the transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge #2076, the premier Masonic research Lodge in the world; it seems there is always something in these proceedings that is interesting to read and learn, plus they are great books to have in a library as research tools. Volume 120 for the year 2007 of the transactions contains a very good research paper, (which every Masonic student would enjoy reading,) on the first charge in Anderson’s Constitutions, and in particular the phrase ‘Stupid Atheist.’

The Term ‘Stupid Atheist’ and ‘Irreligious Libertine’ had been used prior to Anderson’s Constitutions in theological works and sermons by clergymen such as, Samuel Clarke & Thomas Wise. “Anderson’s Constitutions appeared in the middle of a very troubled period both in the Premiere Grand Lodge and in English society at large.”[vii] During the early 1700’s, religion felt a real threat by the combined forces of loose manners, freedom of thought and expression, and atheism under the guise of science. During this period Atheism was so fashionable that some people would pretend or claim to be atheists. In May of 1723 the Grand Master, The Duke of Wharton, gave a speech, which said in part; “Since Atheism and Infidelity, have prevail’d so much amongst us, as even to appear barefaced in a nation where the purest Religion hath been so long profess’d; and since Libertinism, and Irreligion, have so lift up their heads; between which, as between two malefactors, our most Holy Profession, like the Blessed Author of it, is Crucified afresh, and put to open Shame.” [viii]

Again looking at the First Charge and some of its words: The word ‘Tenure’ implies that the state of a “Mason” is a temporary one; subject to the condition of obeying the Moral Law. The term ‘Moral Law’[ix], includes a belief in God: This is mentioned in Clarke’s “Obligations of Natural Religion,”[x] the seventh of which says; “That therefore he is bound to have an exact Government of his passions, and Carefully to abstain from Debaucheries and Abuses of himself, which tend either to the Destruction of his own being, or the disordering of his Faculties, and disabling him from performing him his Duty, in hurrying him into the practice of unreasonable and unjust things.”

At the union of the two rival Grand Lodges in 1813 the term ‘Stupid Athiest’ was not included in subsequent Constitutions and Charges; there are some valid arguments for deleting the term. The Ancients (Dermott) did not adopt Anderson’s term ‘Stupid Atheist’ when Dermott wrote the Ahiman Rezon. You might find it interesting that the ‘Guideposts Family Concordance’ of the Holy Bible under the heading ‘Atheism – the denial of God’s existence’; is defined as; “The fools philosophy”, and shows Psalm 14:1 & 53:1 as examples.

Short Talk Bulletin Volume X number 4 – April 1932 by an unknown Brother, published by the Masonic Service Association of North America, (M.S.A.), (Another good publication for the Masonic Student to subscribe to for education and research,) puts forward the idea that when the ritual, ceremonies, and all, was redone at the union of the two Grand Lodges, a new clause regarding belief in a Supreme Being was adopted: “Let any 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.” I think this is correct, as far as the question concerning “When did the term ‘Stupid Atheist’ end, and the requirement of a sincere belief and trust in God begin? It began at the union of the two Rival Grand Lodges in 1813. However, it is my opinion that this change may have been a part of American and English Masonry at an earlier date; in some American and English Lodges under Charter from the Ancient Grand Lodge using the Ahiman Rezon.

Nevertheless many Masons still love to read and study the Old Charges of 1723 for all they contain: One can spend many, many months of enjoyable research and study to learn, apply, and enjoy the benefits of living up to them. I have it on good authority that in the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario the old charges (Anderson’s) are read in their entirety every time a man is made a Mason (E.A.) for all in Lodge to hear, listen to, and be reminded of; a nice custom and reminder of the great information and lessons they contain.


[i] we could also ask Which Masonic President. The answer is Madison. If you ever see that trivia question again – now you know the answer. Best regards, Ed

[ii] An anecdote you may find interesting took place on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson years ago. The late comedian Buddy Hackett said in his conversation with Johnny that the term Gentile (used to denote Christians) is an incorrect use of the word: he said that Gentile anciently denoted a non-believer: In the metaphysical Bible dictionary the meta definition seems to bear this out; Metaphysically – Worldly thoughts – thoughts pertaining to the external, or thoughts that function through the senses. The Gentile is the unregenerate state of mind in us.

[iii] The Constitutions of the Premiere Grand Lodge first appeared on February 28, 1723 – when the Duke of Wharton was Grand Master.QCCC Vol 120 2007 – The 1st Charge revisited by Chris Impens

[iv] Tenure from Old French, from tenir ‘to hold,’ from Latin tenere . In the first charge the word tenure being used indicates that if a Mason were to become an atheist or not obey the moral law that there are ways and means of discipline including expelling him from Freemasonry, which is synonymous with a Masonic death.

[v] The Grand Lodge of England was formed on St. John the Baptist Day, June 24, 1717

[vi] W.Brother Mark Campbell is the QCCC Secretary for Minnesota; he can be reached at

[vii] QCCC Vol 120 2007 – The 1st Charge revisited by Chris Impens

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid: Article titled “The First Charge Revisited by Chris Impens

[x] Ibid

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