How Religion Fits into Freemasonry
Freemasonry has always been shaped by the countries and societies it has existed in. But, for the most part, since its modern origins in 1717, Ancient Craft Freemasonry has gone out of its way to be nonsectarian (never promoting one religious belief over another).
Here are some of the basics to understand about religion and the Masons:
A Masonic lodge meeting is not a religious service. Going to lodge isn't like going to church.
No Masonic religion exists.
No Masonic god exists — nor does a Masonic devil, for that matter.
Masons refer to God as the Grand Architect of the Universe, a reverent but nonsectarian name.
No Masonic bible is revered above any other.
The Freemasons don't have a plan for spiritual salvation.
Masonry isn't occult. It doesn't dabble in witchcraft, engage in pagan ceremonies, or encourage worship of idols.
Masonry isn't a cult. It doesn't engage in mind control, nor does it force members to stay.
Freemasonry is an invention of man. It has never claimed anything else.
But Freemasonry is religious. Atheists can't join Masonic lodges (with the exception of a very few jurisdictions in Europe, notably France). As a requirement of membership, every candidate must state that he has a personal belief in God, but every Freemason is encouraged to worship in his own way, according to his private beliefs and convictions. What he believes and how he worships are his own business.
No regular lodge of Masons may be opened without the Bible, or other sacred book holy to its members, opened on its altar. Again, like the Grand Architect of the Universe, Masons refer to the book as the Volume of Sacred Law, as a nonsectarian reference to the lodge’s religious tolerance. Depending on what part of the world you’re in and the beliefs of the members, this sacred book could be the King James Bible, the Hebrew Tanach, the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Veda, the Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta, or the Proverbs of Confucius.
Some of the additional York Rite and Scottish Rite degrees that have developed over the years have expressly Christian themes, and the York Rite’s Knights Templar Order specifically requires candidates to swear to defend the Christian religion. Nevertheless, although a few of these degrees teach lessons of morality using events from the New Testament, they do not necessarily require a belief in Christianity.