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by Robert Tipton

 IN THE BELIEF in the existence of God that many men of many minds and many climes hold to, Freemasonry finds the one abiding bond of union for which she has a reasonable belief that it will outdo time. Hence, belief in God is the sovereign authoritative tenet of the Institution; the fundamental dogma of the order. This belief in God, Masons believe to be a primary conviction of the human mind and is arrived at not only by virtue of the deepest instinct of human nature itself, but by the sincerest reflection and philosophic reasoning of which that man is capable. God, then, is postulated as the first great cause. Even as things cannot hang unless they hang onto something, so Masons believe that the universe itself, revealing in its most general aspects, plan and purpose, indicates an author and a supreme architect behind it. This belief in intelligence as being the cause of what is, to us, our universe - let us reemphasize from a strictly modern philosophic standpoint - is not only the wise conclusion of philosophers and sages, but is the first profound conviction that men's minds, in early dawn when they began to reason, first cherished. This is the two-fold conclusion in brief, instinctive and rational, that is involved in conception of God in the minds of Freemasons universally. 

The relationship of God as Father is the great motivating force that actuates them in striving for the worldwide dominion of Peace and Goodwill. 

An ancient philosopher, Philo, regarded God as Father because he had created us, but the view that finds its focus in Masonry, and as it is deducted from the men of the variety of faiths that kneel at its altars, is that God is Father, not only because he made us but because the laws of moral empire indicate a ruling conscience, and that the life of God as it is apprehended through the lives of the wisest and noblest of the race that has lived, reveals that He loves us. The tokens of such love - if wisdom, knowledge, and love be in any wise indications of God's nature - He has not confined to any particular people. "God," saith the Christian's gospel, "maketh the sun to shine on the good and the evil; on the just and on the unjust," and in that last great awakening, according to the wondrous vision of last things, which is to be cherished as the choicest summing up of the judgment of God upon the lives and deeds of men, we would discover men coming from the east and the west and sharing the privileges of eternity, while the arrogant and selfish, who themselves had claimed all knowledge, would be excluded. Masonry, then, does not hold to any arrogant claim regarding the religious genius of any particular people or sect, but recognizes light and truth as it emanates from the lives of men everywhere, past or present. 

Long and painful has been the struggle of our poor humanity that has made us conscious that God is One; sovereign over all, and that there are no other gods but him. And while this indicates immeasurable achievement for men, men the world over have not yet discovered any ground for argument upon the character of God, save as they recognize his universal Fatherhood. It is in this recognition of Fatherhood that Masonry gathers men together, that they may the better work for human happiness in a bonded relationship, in which they hold to one thing in common, rather than in divided relationships, where disagreements forever defeat noble purposes. 

Belief in God is reasonably and naturally followed in a worship of Him by most men, and it is in this worship of Him that the differences abounding cause men to be divided into sects, cults, and churches. That all men would agree upon one way of worship and adoring God may be devoutly wished, but intolerance and bigotry are the distinguishing marks of any who endeavour to coerce others into believing as they do. Hence, the genius of Masonry is found in its permitting diversity in unity, in things relative to faith and practice in the worship of God. As far as its purpose is apprehended by its followers, it is to enjoin men everywhere, that the creature owes a duty to the Creator, and that duty is most worthily revealed by imitating that beneficence of heart toward his kind which he apprehends God to be continually disposing toward him. In the light of this, the preservation of the freedom of worship is one of the glorious purposes of the Masonic Institution and since it has zealously in the past preserved this freedom of worship, to the enhancing of the happiness of men everywhere, its intention to perpetuate this freedom is its one clear, prophetic pronouncement as regards life today. In the light of the conception of the Fatherhood of God held to by the Freemasons, it at once becomes imperative that we inquire how, in terms of civic duty we can acquaint ourselves with all that is involved in such belief, so as to manifest the practical bearing of such a doctrine upon our lives and conduct. We are well aware of the contempt that so frequently finds expression among Masons for what appears as religious Phariseeigm. Too often this observation has been made while absolutely neglecting what may be regarded by the profane as Phariseeism in us. The very ordinances and outward observances which we have condemned in others, too frequently we have been guilty of ourselves. The instruction acquired through the ritual has claimed the assent of our minds, but too frequently it has failed to find interpretation in our daily lives. Let us reflect on this. There is little virtue in doing things for others because we are compelled by obligations to do them, but when we do things calculated to enrich and bless others, whether they are legally bound to us or not, and further, when we do them from pure or impersonal consideration of hope of gain, but for the very love of doing good itself, then we are making tangible confession without verbal utterance of our belief in God as the Father, and we are dealing with our kind in a way that we believe He deals with all of us. 

Masonry, would devolve into a narrow, secular institution should it fail to apprehend the teaching that is most deeply imbedded in its very constitution. The universality of brotherhood is emphasized when the variety of religious confession and racial distinction is represented within its body, and as we would do for those within the precincts of the Temple, because they are there recognized in the bonds of brotherhood, so should we do for the world, for their being there is but symbolic of world brotherhood, and is intended - if symbolism has any virtue to impress indelibly upon our minds and hearts any lesson - our obligation to love and serve all mankind. 

Religious intolerance finds its genesis when God's Fatherhood is regarded as a limited thing. 

Masonry seeks to instruct men in the laws of moral empire which, ruling over the lives of men, will bring them into harmonious relationship known as The Universal Brotherhood, that has been the devout prayer of all noble men in whom the light of God has shone, since the damn of time. And its wisdom is amply justified in its bringing together men of the great religions of earth on a common meeting ground, where the belief in God is the band that binds, but where they make their separate interpretations of the character of God subsidiary to the great thing that each subscribes to, and which stated simply, they discern to be the will of God. 

When the great congress of religions met in Chicago in 1893 it was the grave concern of some as to how the great gathering should be opened, and what religious representative should have the preferential honour. Finally it was happily agreed that what is commonly known in the world as the Lord's Prayer was an expression appropriate to the common feelings and religious emotions represented there. And if we are to make manifest the great key-note of that prayer that links men in the great common cause of serving humanity after declaration of their belief in God as the universal Father, it is the utterance asking that the will of that Father shall be accomplished on earth, and that his kingdom shall be realized upon the earth. The ascription that "God is Father," finds itself a complimentary part in the brotherhood that men evince when they recognize God as Father. 

Having elucidated at length on the Masonic conception of God, and an unqualified recognition of his nearness to the Hindu as well as the Christian, and to emphasize truly that God must care as much for a naked cannibal as for the most cultured or refined, it behooves us to investigate what effect this doctrine has upon our practical life and well-being in the State. To make it yet more concrete, we must speak not only of "the State," but of these United States. Religious liberty is one of the foundation stones upon which this Republic is built, but strange as it may seem, we are yet but beginning to apprehend the true significance of religious liberty. A dispassionate analysis of our country will reveal many sad things that have brought misery in their wake; arising generally from the subsequent bigotry of those who sought these shores and claimed for themselves religious liberty. The persecuted - history is not slow in revealing to us - have too often been transformed into persecutors. It is then, indeed, a gleam of the divine that is reflected in the Constitution of the United States when it bespeaks for the maintenance of religious toleration and the lasting preservation of religious liberty. 

As Freemasons in these United States and in view of the thing that is guaranteed unto us by the Constitution we must be on our guard against any religious sect that arrogantly ascribes to itself the holding of the only true and final religious knowledge and authority. The right to elect or damn has never been bequeathed to any man or any organization, and religions as all other things of time seem to have had their rise and wane according to the proportion of good or evil that they rendered the world. Bigotry and fanaticism, which has too frequently resolved itself into cupidity, cruelty and persecution, has ever been the chief characteristic of religions that lost the vision of toleration, and in the toleration of religious differences by those who subscribe to the one great doctrine of Belief in God as the Father of men Masonry seeks to inspire men to labour and to pray for the divine event when Brother hood will grace the earth.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014