"...binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having...."
One of the common deceptions used by anti-Masons, particularly the "Religious Intolerants", is the charge that Masons take "Bloody Oaths". Forgetting how they too might have said "Cross my heart and hope to die.", it's a wonderful catch-phrase for them to use since it's so emotionally charged. To someone who has never experienced Freemasonry, it can be more than just 'chilling'. Bodies severed, throats cut, and all sorts of horrid things - and yet, it seems that none of this is EVER reported in the news. Could it be that every single (EVERY SINGLE) person who becomes a Mason is just so terrified that he'll never do anything bad toward Freemasonry or another Mason? Oh, and what about those who've quit Freemasonry? Why is it they've never been punished like this?
Welcome to reality!
So if they're 'fake', why bother?
It's a bit more complicated than that. When a man becomes a Mason, he is expected to be able to practice tolerance and to 'keep a secret'. Most often this involves personal matters but it's something every Mason understands. The consequence of breaking this trust that's shared amongst ALL Masons wherever dispersed is not a simple triviality; it's the core of the fraternal brotherhood that has existed over three centuries and more. Thus, a serious and solemn penalty is not a joke or prank. Every Mason understands this - but they also understand that it's symbolic.... Those who have difficulty understanding symbolism (or who want to attack Freemasonry for their own objectives) pick on this as an object of scorn and mocking. To a Mason, it's sheer foolishness to be doing so.
But he didn't know.... The horror of it all!
When a man joins Freemasonry, these concepts are discussed with him well in advance of his initiation. This is not unlike other instances in our lives where we encounter things which we might not have understood in their totality before they were presented to us. If you've bought a house, can you honestly say that you obtained and studied carefully each and every one of the mortgage papers before you signed them? More likely, you were handed some things and relied on your trust in others that they'd be appropriate.
So too in Freemasonry: the individual seeks out the fraternity (not vice-versa) and at several points along the way, including just seconds before the actual obligations are conferred, he is reassured that what he obligates himself to will not interfere with any duty he owes to GOD, his country, his family/neighbors, or himself.
With these assurances in mind, the candidate is asked if he is willing to proceed. Only upon a positive, verbal statement does the ceremony continue.
As anti-Masons will show, obligations used in the past (available to them from the many Masonic 'Exposures' written over the past 300 years) do contain penalties which - if followed literally - would be so heinous as to warrant the contempt of all. The difference is, however, that the obligations are allegorical in nature.
As times change, the concept of allegory is becoming lost. The number of 'acceptable' nursery rhymes diminishes daily in an effort to be politically correct and as this happens, fewer and fewer people understand the concept of allegory. Consequently, many Grand Lodges throughout the world have changed or are changing their obligations to say, simply and plainly, that a Mason in times past obligated himself to various things (the 'Bloody Oaths') but that a Mason today subjects himself only to the penalty of being 'spoken to' or being asked to leave!
Masonry's detractors, when confronted with this information, will suggest that the penalties - if they are meaningless in the first place - should be abolished. Why they are in a position to determine how an organization to which they do not belong should conduct its affairs is a mystery. Nevertheless, the penalties are mentioned since they emphasize the sincerity of purpose upon which the work is undertaken.
It's hardly the stuff on which the planets turn, but to hear the anti-Masonic faction tell it, it's the most heinous thing in the world. Frankly, missing a mortgage payment can be far more hazardous....
In HIS Name
As a further complaint, against the Masonic oaths, 'religious intolerants' will argue that an Oath made in the Creator's name is inappropriate. They also complain that one is made to swear to things unknown until they are spoken. Many (perhaps most) of those who make this objection have likely never served in the Armed Forces (although many like to 'play' soldier, being part of a self-created 'militia' movement). Had they served in the US military, perhaps they might have understood this comparison which appeared on the alt.freemasonry newsgroup in August, 2001. An anonymous poster using the moniker "Maverick Ministries" wrote
to which this reply was given:
The Biblical issue
By the time of Christ the Old Testament law regarding oaths (Exod 22:11) was much perverted by the scribes, and Jesus therefore condemned indiscriminate and light taking of oaths. The lawfulness of oaths is recognized by the apostles, who called on God to witness to the truth of what they said (2 Cor 11:31; Gal 1:20).
Taking ANY obligation
For those visitors from outside of the United States or those who have never served in the military in the US, this is the oath of allegiance that is given to every person enlisting or re-enlisting for any of the armed forces. This oath has been given to ALL persons, even in times when their enlistment was not at all voluntary but was required by the country's laws. Freemasonry, on the contrary, is quite clear that an applicant must come 'of their own free will and accord'. Further, before any obligation is given in any degree of Freemasonry or of ANY body associated with it, the candidate is assured by the presiding officer that it will not interfere with any duty he owes to God, his country, his neighbor/his family, or himself. He is told "...with that assurance, are you willing to receive it?" and has the absolute right to answer "No!". Gosh, it's really not THAT hard to understand, is it?
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