Freemasonry, the world’s oldest and most respected fraternity, encourages good men to become better men by promoting a life devoted to high ideals, community service and benevolence. Men of every race and religion become Freemasons. Each has a personal belief in a Supreme Being and a determination to conduct himself in a manner that will earn the respect and trust of others.
Freemasonry uses symbols and language borrowed from the ancient stonemason’s trade to illustrate these ideals and morals to its members. The life of a member is described as his building and the member labors toward it’s completion.
To assist the member in this effort, he has the use of working tools which represent the great moral concepts promoted over the ages. When faced with dilemmas or difficult decisions, members are always urged to seek the counsel of the Deity through the medium of prayer and to consult His Word in the Volume of the Sacred Law.
Washington Lodge No. 46 in Portland, Oregon has a rich history of one hundred and forty-six years. Over this time we have encouraged and helped men to reach these ideals as well as serving the local community.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
In a word, no…
- Basic Principles. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires a belief in a Supreme Being as a condition of membership, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extemporaneous, to reaffirm each individual’s dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.
- The Supreme Being. Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek, and to express what they know of, God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, Great Architect of the Universe, and other nonsectarian titles, to address the Deity, In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private, and sacred.
- Volume of the Sacred Law. An open volume of the Sacred Law, “the rule and guide of life,” is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law to a Christian is the Bible; to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them.
- The oaths of Freemasonry. The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemason’s means of recognition. The much discussed “penalties,” judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.
- Freemasonry Compared with Religion. Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:
- It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy.
- It offers no sacraments.
- 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, not with the means of salvation.
- Freemasonry supports religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.
Is It a Secret Society?
Freemasonry does have certain handshakes and passwords, customs incorporated into later fraternities, which are kept private. They are means of recognizing each other — necessary in an organization which spans the entire world and which encompasses many languages.
The tradition of using handshakes and passwords was very common in the Middle Ages, when the ability to identify oneself as belonging to a building or trade guild often made the difference in getting a job or in obtaining help for yourself and family. Also, in the world of the medieval stonemason, the influence of the Church and of kings loomed quite large. Harboring and speaking about ideas that were contrary to Church dogma or a king’s rule could lead to dire consequences. Secret handshakes and passwords were tokens given by one to another as signs of trust.
Freemasonry can’t be called a secret society in a literal sense. A truly secret society forbids its members to disclose that they belong to the organization or that it even exists. Much of the Masonic ritual is described in books that are widely available — even in public libraries. Most Freemasons wear rings and lapel pins which clearly identify them as members of the fraternity. Masonic lodges are listed in public phone books and, in many areas of the country, Masonic lodges place signs on the roads leading into a town, along with other civic organizations, showing the time and place of meetings. Masonic buildings are clearly marked:
- In downtown Portland, the 1925 Masonic temple is now the Mark Building of the Portland Art Museum. The building retains many of its Masonic characteristics and all of it’s external Masonic markings.
- In downtown San Francisco, the former home of the Grand Lodge of California was donated to the San Francisco School District for use as its offices. The building retains many of it’s external Masonic markings.
In terms of what it does, what it teaches, who belongs, and where it meets, there are no secrets in Freemasonry! Freemasonry is a private fraternal association of men who contribute much toward the public good while enjoying the benefits of the brotherhood of a fraternity. The aspects of secrecy are traditional only.
Ideas So Simple…
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization dedicated to Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
- Brotherly Love
Freemasonry recognizes the strong bond which unites all people as the children of a single Creator. Our members include men from a wide range of religious backgrounds and traditions, but each of them shares a commitment to this important principle — the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
Because of our strong bond of Brotherly Love, Masons provide relief to help those who are in need. We promise not only to assist our brother Masons in times of need but to practice charity toward all men. Freemasonry has organized and supports many worthy charities — children’s hospitals, speech disorder clinics, eye research, and cancer research to name but a few. No person in need of our charity, member or not, is turned away and we ask nothing in return. Relief also means offering a helping hand, in other ways, to people that need assistance in the communities where we live and work.
As Masons, we are committed to being honest and truthful with other people. Freemasonry teaches a man to be faithful to his responsibilities to God, his country, his neighbor, and himself and family. Truth also teaches a man to search for wisdom and understanding in all things. For, only in this way, can he grow and become a better person. The pursuit of knowledge is at the very heart of our purpose. To this end, we support public education and rights of conscience for all men all over the world.