'Religious Intolerants', perhaps acutely aware of the charges which have been leveled against them, are quite quick to label Freemasonry as a cult and Masons as cultists. 

Whether it's seeing a local parade with Shriners dressed in imitation of Arabic costumes playing flutes or whether it's being present at a Masonic funeral service with a group of men dressed in black suits and gloves, the most gullible among us might even consider this spurious charge as being possible.

Let us examine in detail the differences between Freemasonry and cults so that you can decide for yourself. As you'll see, there are LOTS of reasons why Freemasonry is NOT a cult!

Unlike a cult:

  1. The person joining Freemasonry knows clearly what organization he is joining. He understands that he himself has asked to become a member.
  2. He retains freedom of religion, politics, friends, family association, selection of spouse, and information access to internet, television, radio, reading material at libraries and elsewhere, telephone, and mail.
  3. The connection with Freemasonry is usually infrequent: once or twice a month. Although for some active members, Masonic activities will occur 2-3 times a week, yet others proudly maintain Masonic membership attending only 1-2 (or even no) meetings each year. There are no enforced long-term Masonic activities. The longest Masonic event rarely, if ever, lasts longer than a day. Even events which span a multiple day period (annual Grand Lodge meetings, for example) leave members free to return to their homes and family each evening.
  4. A Mason can terminate his membership freely. In fact, if he fails to pay his annual dues, his membership is terminated by the Masonic organization!  Should a Mason wish to leave the organization, he can request a 'demit' and receive a certificate which states that he has unaffiliated with the organization under good terms. No Mason is forced to remain a member should he wish otherwise.
  5. No medical/dental care interference occurs or is even offered. This is not true in the many cults that discourage and sometimes even forbid medical care. The various hospital services provided by the Shriners are for crippled and burned children, below the age of membership in Freemasonry, and no Masonic affiliation is required for treatment in them.  There are some states which have blood donation programs that enable all Masons to receive blood transfusions if necessary free of charge: we doubt that anyone would remain a member of an organization against their will just to have access to free blood transfusions!
  6. In Freemasonry, records are kept and are available to all members. Cult records, if they exist, are confidential, hidden from members, and not shared.  Freemasonry's records extend back some 300 years, all readily available. (Note: one marginally popular Mason writing today makes the absurd claim that the United Grand Lodge of England has secrets from the past they've kept hidden - but his charge relates to things that happened three centuries ago and not of our current times. Further, nearly all credible Masonic writers and researchers think these charges are utter nonsense.)
  7. While membership lists are not posted publicly, this policy is no different than that of private golf clubs or lists of employees of privately held corporations. Members are free to disclose their membership to whomever they please.
  8. A legal system exists within Freemasonry and a Mason can also utilize non-Masonic legal and law enforcement agencies and other representatives if needed. In cults, there is only the closed, internal system of justice, and no appeal, no recourse to outside support.
  9. Families of Masons talk and deal directly with schools. Children of Masons may attend public or private schools as they wish. Some Masonic bodies (notably the Southern U.S. Scottish Rite Masonic Jurisdiction) in fact vigorously support the public school system. In cults, children, child rearing, and education are often controlled by the whims and idiosyncrasies of the cult leader.
  10. Freemasonry is not a sovereign entity above the laws of the land. Cults consider themselves above the law, with their own brand of morality and justice, accountable to no one, not even their members.1
  11. A Mason gets to keep his pay, property owned and acquired presents from relatives, inheritances, and so forth. In many cults, members are expected to turn over to the cult all monies and worldly possessions.
  12. Rational behavior is valued in Freemasonry. Cults stultify members' critical thinking abilities and capacity for rational, independent thinking; normal thought processes are stifled and broken (somewhat like the manner of actions of those who make the charge that Freemasons are cultists!).
  13. Suggestions and criticism can be made to leadership through advocated, proper channels. There are no 'suggestion boxes' in cults. The cult is always right, and the members (and outsiders) are always wrong.
  14. Masonic leadership is elected, usually annually. No Masonic leader serves 'for life'. Should a Masonic leader act improperly, he can be removed from office. Even the highest ranking officer within a Masonic jurisdiction (a Grand Master) serves at the will and pleasure of the membership and can be removed for malfeasance or acts detrimental to the fraternity.
  15. There is no single leader of Freemasonry. There are hundreds of Grand Lodges throughout the world, and each is sovereign unto itself. A Grand Lodge controls only its own subordinate lodges and no others. Rules made by a Grand Lodge apply only to its own members.
  16. Masons may affiliate with more than one Grand Lodge. With rare exceptions, there is no bar to joining multiple lodges in multiple jurisdictions.
  17. Freemasonry does not use its members for medical and psychological experiments - period! Cults essentially perform psychological experiments on their members through implementing  thought-reform processes without members' knowledge or consent.
  18. Masons become more and more a part of the community through various lodge-sponsored events. In a cult, members come to know less and less abut the outside world; contact with or information about life outside the cult is sometimes openly frowned upon, if not forbidden.
  19. Freemasonry has no particular dietary suggestions or recommendations. Typically, because of intense work schedule, lack of funds, and other cult demands, members are not able to maintain healthy eating habits. (Freemasons frequently host public dinners which anyone can attend and Masonic events regularly have plenty of food for those attending - sometimes, a little TOO much, if judged by the waistlines of some members. <sigh>)
  20. Masonry regularly contributes to other groups and organizations. Masonic organizations take leadership positions in fund raising for charities and public good (see our section on Charities). Cults desperately seek to keep whatever assets they are able to obtain; Freemasonry shares with the world - estimates currently are at approximately two million dollars PER DAY!
  21. In Freemasonry, instruction is based on symbolism but brainwashing, or thought reform, is not used. Cults influence members by means of a coordinated program of psychological and social influence techniques. Freemasonry allows each member to provide his own interpretation of the symbols involved and no one interpretation is deemed to be correct to the exclusion of all others. Witness the many interpretations given by various Masonic writers over the centuries.... Religious intolerants will attempt to label this or that individual's interpretation as representative of Freemasonry but nothing could be further from the truth. What any other Mason (including the oft-misquoted Masonic authors like Albert Pike) sees in the symbolism of the Trowel, for example, may be far different from what I as a Mason see - yet neither of us is wrong.

For these and many other reasons, Freemasonry is not a cult - and, in fact, is further from it than the practices of many of those who hurl the term at it as if it were an evil invective.

The next time you hear or read of someone calling a Mason a cultist, we hope you will look closely at their own background and beliefs. Perhaps they know about cults because of themselves....

1. It is important here to mention the current events in the United Kingdom where a 'witch hunt' mentality exists, causing strident charges that Masons should be forced to disclose their membership lists, unlike any other private organization. The ostensible purpose is to determine whether there is public corruption as a result of Masonic membership.

When, as any similarly-situated organization would do, Masonic leaders refused to comply, there were vocal charges that they held themselves to be above the law. Nothing could be further from the truth - and, in fact, English Masonic leaders were asking only that they be treated identically to other organizations similarly situated. 



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