What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is simply the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. It is said that the origins of Freemasonry may pre-date dynastic Egypt. Masonic lodges are found in nearly every country in the world.
There are many Masonic principles. Some of these are:
Perhaps the best explanation of Masonic principles is expressed by the Scottish Rite Creed, which states: "Human Progress is our cause, the enfranchisement of human thought our supreme wish, the freedom of human conscience our mission, and the guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere, the end of our contention."
Freemasons include men from all walks of life who express a belief in a Supreme Being, have attained the age of 18 and who possess good moral character. Although a candidate for Freemasonry must profess a belief in a Supreme Being, the nature of his faith is of no concern to the Fraternity, and is not a condition for membership. No atheist may become a Mason because without a belief in a Supreme Being no oath by such a person can be considered binding on him. Masons are proud to count among their Fraternity many great men, past and present, including 14 presidents, 8 vice presidents, 42 justices of the Supreme Court, 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Framers of the Constitution, Congressmen and Senators, astronauts, great military leaders, entertainers, doctors, writers, teachers and businessmen.
Although women may not become Freemasons per se, there are many Masonic organizations that encourage women to join, and have women who preside and hold office. Among these are the Eastern Star, Rainbow Girls, Job's Daughters, Daughters of the Nile, and others. There is actually no good reason to exclude women, in this day and age, other than tradition. Freemasonry is very old. Freemasonry does not allow a man to be coerced into becoming a Mason - he must join of his own free will. Even today, we may not recruit or solicit men to become Masons. They must seek membership on their own. In some cultures and societies in the world even today, women are not truly free. Without complete free will, a person may not become a Mason.
No. Masons love freedom, believe in liberty and justice for all, and would consider it contradictory behavior to force others to believe as they do. Masons would like the whole world to be free, but it is up to each individual to come to terms with this belief on their own. To that end, Freemasonry will teach as many as possible, one Mason at a time.
The primary purpose of Freemasonry is to teach and spread Masonic principles.
No. Freemasonry is neither a religion nor a cult. Religion encourages its members to behave and think in a particular way to achieve salvation. Religion is based on faith, which is an unquestioned belief in a mythos that cannot be proved. Freemasonry has no such beliefs. In fact, religious and political discussions are strictly forbidden in Lodge. Although Freemasonry is not a religion, the organization is spiritual in nature. Freemasonry welcomes men of all faiths.
No. Each Masonic Lodge is a non-profit organization as defined by IRS Code 501(c)10. Anyone with a telephone book can find the Masonic Lodge of any town that has one. Masons erect signs at the entrances to their towns in the same way other service organizations such as the Lion's, Kiwanis, Elks and Rotary Clubs do. They do this to inform traveling Masons and interested visitors where and when meetings take place. Ask any Mason what Freemasonry is all about and he'll gladly tell you. Visit a Masonic Lodge and you're likely to get a tour of the building and an earful of history from the Lodge secretary. Masons are free to acknowledge their membership and many proudly display Masonic rings, pins, bumper stickers, etc. The only things a Mason will not divulge to a non-Mason are certain signs, symbols and other means of recognition. In free societies, this secrecy is more for tradition than for any practical purpose. In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes, however, Freemasonry is a secret organization, since oppressive governments that do not allow their citizens to have basic human rights actively persecute Masons because of their beliefs in freedom and equality.
Why, indeed do men join an organization that requires much in the way of time and effort, yet seemingly gives nothing tangible in return? Perhaps it is because no other group allows king and subject, rich and poor to meet as equals. In no other organization can men of any sect or religion meet and belong without fear of prejudice or discrimination. Freemasonry, like very few organizations, regards a man, not for his worldly possessions or position in society, but for his spiritual and internal qualifications. Masons promote freethinking and are always on the unending quest to seek the truth. Since Masons believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, they tend not to answer critics or counter anti-Masonic rhetoric. It was a Mason who once said to someone, "I do not agree with what you say, Sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." No other organization has been more in the forefront in the battle for individual liberties than Freemasonry. Men become Freemasons to become better men.
No. Masonic rituals are simply plays that impart moral lessons. The ancient Greeks did much the same thing in their amphitheaters when they put on their dramas. The purpose of those ancient Greek plays was to teach. Masonic degrees accomplish the same objective. The Degrees of Freemasonry are steeped in tradition and symbolism. They are entirely serious in nature and bear no resemblance at all to the hazing in today's college fraternities.