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by MW Bro Giulliano di Bernardo
GM of the Grand Loggia Regolare d’Italia

"Freemasonry is an ethical conception of man concerning his nature and his goals. In outlining its own image of man, Freemasonry has on purpose given up investigating all man's possible aspects, thus limiting itself to taking into account only those related to his ethical perfection. This does not mean that the other aspects have no value for the Masonic thought, but only that they appear minor and subordinate to the ethical ones. Just because Freemasonry lays great emphasis on the study of a particular aspect of man , its anthropology is, by definition, partial. It is just here that we can understand an important difference in comparison with religion: while every anthropology coming from a religion is, by nature, total, the Masonic anthropology is partial.

Such a difference should be enough to outline the different specificities of Freemasonry and religion. Yet in the course of centuries misunderstandings have arisen. The question whether Freemasonry is a religion has been given different answers, with the consequence of placing the relationship between Freemasonry and religion in a false perspective, both theoretical and practical. To come out of such a situation of ambiguity, in 1985 the United Grand Lodge of England, Mother of all the regular Grand Lodges of the World, issued an important document entitled Declaration on Freemasonry and Religion. Since the United Grand Lodge of England is the most authoritative source in the formation of Masonic thought, this Declaration gains the importance of a constitution which is binding for all the Grand Lodges recognized as regular. As this Declaration is essential to understand the relationship between Freemasonry and Religion, I report it in its entirety:

Basic statement: Freemasonry is not a Religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It demands of its members a belief in a Supreme Being but provides no system of faith of its own. Freemasonry is open to men of all religious faiths. The discussion of religion at its meetings is forbidden.

The Supreme Being: The names used for the Supreme Being enable men of different faiths to join in prayer (to God as each sees Him) without the terms of the prayer causing dissension among them. There is no separate Masonic God; a Freemason's God remains the God of the religion he professes. Freemasons meet in common respect for the Supreme Being as He remains Supreme in their individual religions, and it is no part of Freemasonry to attempt to join religions together. There is therefore no composite Masonic God.

Volume of the Sacred Law: The Bible, referred to by Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open at every Masonic meeting.

The Obligations of Freemasonry: The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on or involve the Volume of the Sacred Law, or the book held sacred by those concerned. They are undertakings to help keep secret a Freemason's means of recognition, and to follow the principles of Freemasonry. The physical penalties which are purely symbolic do not form part of an Obligation. The commitment to follow the principles of Freemasonry is, however, deep.

Freemasonry compared with Religion:

Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:

  1. It has no theological doctrine, and by forbidding religious discussion at its meetings will not allow a Masonic theological doctrine to develop.
  2. It offers no sacraments.
  3. It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition and not with salvation.

Freemasonry supports Religion: Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions. Freemasonry is thus a supporter of religion."

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Last modified: March 22, 2014