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truth and tolerance

by Author Unknown

As Masons, we live our lives relying on the belief that Objective Truth exists. If only we can find it. We attempt to gather evidence for our beliefs whether they are political, religions or simply a moral belief. We weigh the credibility and truthfulness of each of fact or belief we hold. We make difficult judgments and in the end, we arrive at a close proximity to truth, hopefully an Objective Truth.

The Masonic principle of Truth also teaches a man to search for wisdom and understanding. The pursuit of knowledge is at the very heart of our purpose. Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.

Most Masons I'm sure can agree on these principles as set out by Paul Copan:

Truth is true容ven if no one knows it.

Truth is true容ven if no one admits it.

Truth is true容ven if no one agrees what it is.

Truth is true容ven if no one follows it.

Truth is true容ven if no one but God grasps it fully

Yet we have now entered an age or the "relativist". To the relativist, no "fact" is in all times and places true. He argues that because everyone's point of view is different, we should believe that one fact is equally correct as another, In fact, the hard-core relativist says that given the slippery nature of what the rest of us mistakenly call "truth," we can't even settle on the fact that there is a single truth at all.

Today objective Truth is increasingly pushed aside by secularizing influences such as the university, the media, and politics. Rather than being a matter of truth, it is all just opinion. If we follow relativism to its illogical end we imply that the pursuit of any truth is an exercise in futility. It clearly entails the obliteration of all knowledge, including scientific, moral, and historical truth in favor of a subjective reality. This subjective reality as we are now told by society is called progress and the practice of this is the modern definition of tolerance.

So what kind of tolerance is "Masonic Tolerance"? As Masons we are committed to being honest and truthful with other people. The Masonic Fraternity teaches a man to be faithful to his responsibilities to God, his Country, his fellow man, his family and himself. As Masons we are taught these two principles: one, Truth is divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. Secondly, Justice is that standard of boundary of right which enables us to render unto every man his just due, without distinction.

By uniting these two principles with other precepts of Freemasonry we see that tolerance can not be an "it true for you but not for me "mindset. We are taught that as Master Masons, we are to correct the irregularities of our less informed brethren, to fortify their minds with resolution against snares of the insidious and guard them Just think through the implications of this new type of "relativistic tolerance" and apply it rigorously to real life. As we do we see the hidden dangers of being so "accommodating." As Alister McGrath writes,

"It is utterly wrongheaded to say that something is "true for you but not for me." For example, what if I think fascism is true and you think liberal democracy is equally true? Should the fascist's repression be tolerated by the believer in liberal democracy? If not, on what grounds? Why not permit Stalinism or Satanism or Nazism? Without criteria to determine truth, this relativism fails miserably".

Most of us I believe would not want to live in a world of this type "relativistic tolerance". And it isn't this type of tolerance that Masons should be referring to as we speak of tolerance in general. How could it be, since again as Masons we are taught that," We are to regard the Sacred Volume of Law as the Great Light in our profession and to consider it as our unerring standard of Truth and justice. Just as we are taught of our duty we owe to God".

Having this unerring Standard of Truth would in and of itself conflict with a "relative tolerance" mind set perhaps as it regards to Masons. And is best explained: In the absence of the objective truth, absolute power rules the day. That is, once truth is whatever we say it is, asserting power over others is a natural next step. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "that the obliteration of God預nd therefore all objective standards for truth and morality would usher in an age of nihilism, the rejection of all objective meaning and value. All that is left is the will to power, by which only the fittest survive".

So what is it we mean when we speak of tolerance as Masons? Oddly it is relatively easy for us as Masons to practice Tolerance. It is a bit more difficult to for us to actually define what exactly it is what we mean, without falling into the trap of "Modern relativism". Tolerance does not mean, by any stretch of imagination, that one belief is as good as another, or is as true as another, or is as valuable as another. Freemasonry does not advocate a general indifference to all beliefs; nor does it hold that all differences of opinion should be watered down into a faulty compromise. We may as individuals believe that one belief is truer than another, that one opinion is better grounded than another; or one fact better supported than another but in the final analysis we want the truth to prevail.

The fact is that because Masonic philosophy encourages men to search for personal enlightenment, situations are created in that each Mason may see Truth in a different light. And yet since 1717, when the first Speculative Grand Lodge was formed in England, Masons, both operative and speculative, have been taught tolerance of religion politics and other ideals. Thusly we have been condemned by extremists on all sides of the many struggles. The lesson of tolerance learned through long years of experience has made an indelible impression on the philosophy of the Masonic Lodge, and this philosophy was and is an important motivation for men of every country sect and opinion to join our Fraternity.

Freemasonry's attitude is even more definite than this. Masonic Tolerance teaches that every mason should espouse brotherly love, and truth. It is this type of tolerance that forms the principle of Brotherly love in the sense that all men are created equal. It is this principle Freemasonry unites men of all nationalities and religious beliefs and conciliates true friendships amongst those who might otherwise remain at a perpetual distance.

Temperance, Justice and reason have evolved the precepts that defining the Masonic Fraternity's idea of Tolerance. Reason dictates that we search through the various "universal truths" and "common beliefs" which have existed throughout the history of mankind to find each Truth. Though "Perfect truth is unattainable; we as Masons press on ever trying approaching it.

We could say Freemasonry teaches universal toleration or the right of every man to abide by his own faith and beliefs without interference or fearing retaliation or to the right to hold views that are not judged unjustly simple because they differ from another. Masonic Tolerance has been a stabilizing agent. Such toleration has been inspired by Freemasonry's most valuable tenets: friendship, morality and brotherly love. There is no principle in the ancient teachings of Freemasonry that has been more prominently advocated than the doctrine of toleration. "Thou shalt not persecute a man for simply differing from thee in opinion" has been a foremost Masonic charge for hundreds of years.

What is Masonic Tolerance then? It could be defined as reason and understanding tempered by tolerance and respect. These principles being inspired by the Masonic Tenants of friendship, morality and brotherly love. What it does not on the other hand mean is that everything and anything goes. Freemasonry does not assert nor does it teach that one fact or belief is as good as another. In short every true Freemason will show tolerance by respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow man and his opinions. As Masons the limit of our influence upon others should be persuasion, not punishment, and difference in our individual beliefs should not prevent Brotherly Love to prevail. To respect the differences of every man and still feel you are his friend and brother is a fundamental of Masonic teaching. Tolerance, therefore, is a positive and constructive thing. It encourages each man to think for himself, and not follow blindly and unthinking. As such Masonry is indeed the "Mother of Tolerance we can honestly say Freemasonry is simply the current evolution of a brotherhood formed at the dawn of humanity.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014