To become a Freemason requires a 'belief in a Supreme Being'. Thus, no atheist need apply. It's the way Freemasonry has been for over three hundred years.
However, that prohibition, in an of itself, is - for some - a challenge. An insult, even! "Who are these Masons to decide what I should and shouldn't believe? If I don't want to believe in God, that's my right - and the Constitution guarantees me the right...."
Well, it just goes on from there. The fact is that Freemasonry doesn't care what any person believes - except that those who apply for membership must meet its requirements. Freemasonry came about LONG before there was either a Constitution (of the United States - or even a United States, for that matter). And Freemasonry is a world-wide organization founded in its current form and existing in many places where there's no such thing as a Constitution. All of these things notwithstanding, a small number of folks get awfully upset about this particular requirement.
For them, it seems, there should be the absolute and unbridled freedom to do what they want, when they want, and how they want. Although not common, for a precious few it seems to extend as far as their wanting to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theatre just because they want to do that. Those who live in America in particular seem to think it is their inalienable right to join anything at any time simply because they feel so inclined. They feel that their (lack of) religion should be protected and that by not being allowed to join, they are the objects of ----- DISCRIMINATION! And - particularly in a politically-correct culture - anything that has even a whiff of discrimination is bad... ugly... despicable!
In addressing e-mails of those who've inquired about this, I've sometimes asked whether they use the restrooms marked "Ladies/Women" and whether they feel that they're being discriminated against by not being welcome there. I've wondered aloud why someone who has never served in or worked with the military would want to become a part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I've thought that someone with no Polish or American connections (ancestry, friends, neighbors) would not have a burning desire to join the Polish-American Club - and then want to change the entire group to his/her way of thinking but apparently I'm wrong and there are those people out there. Sure, there might be some totally tangential reason but what commonality would you have with those who are in a group where every single one of them has a core belief that's different than your own? Nothing. Nothing at all!
If you don't practice religion, what difference does it make?
Some have argued that because Freemasonry is NOT a religion and doesn't require its membership to profess any (a) particular religious belief, there would be no problem whatsoever. That argument, though, ignores some basic facts. There is a volume of the sacred law open during every Masonic lodge meeting. This is often the Holy Bible but in some countries might include several Holy Books. When a person takes their obligations, they do so on the Holy Book. They conclude their obligation with the words "So help me God".... Lodge meetings are opened and closed with a prayer. Grace is always said before any (and every) meal taken by the lodge. Each lodge has a Chaplain and each Grand Lodge has one or more Grand Chaplains. Words of prayer are said at the wake or funeral of a deceased Brother Mason. When a lodge is consecrated, prayers are said. Even meetings of Masons which are not specifically lodge meetings (a scholarship committee, for example) will often begin with a few words of prayer, so ingrained is the obligation that we know a creation owes to his Creator.
How many more examples would you like?
There are bodies within the Masonic family that have VERY specific religious requirements: to be a Knight Templar requires one agree to defend the Christian above all others. The Order of the Eastern Star uses Biblical characters both as part of their ritual and emblematically as officers within their Chapters. A young man becoming the presiding officer of the male youth group sponsored by Freemasonry, the Order of DeMolay, obligates himself - on a Bible - that he will never allow a meeting to close without a word of prayer for his mother, his father and his country's welfare. The female youth groups - Job's Daughters, Rainbow, and Triangle - all have clear allusions to professions of faith. And we haven't even begun to recite the many Masonic-related groups such as the Knights Templar, Royal Order of Scotland, the Masonic Rosicrucians and so many others, all of which have faith-based requirements.
At what point does it become clear that Freemasonry has a 'faith bias' that would make someone without a belief in Deity understand that he 'just wouldn't fit'?
But what about the 'special favors' Masons get? You're denying me....
Now WAIT: another part of joining Freemasonry is that you have no expectation of personal gain or advancement. Now you want the Masons to waive one of their core membership requirements in order that you can lie when you take your obligations?
<SIGH> No, no one is denying you of anything any more than membership in an organization which just doesn't fit you. While there are a lot of people who watch football (both the US and the 'other' version!) on television and in person. But if you're an individual who doesn't believe in anything which involves competition, it's highly unlikely you'd feel comfortable doing this - let alone trying out for the team!
And last, but certainly not least, while that "G" you see in the standard Masonic emblem can stand for the non-faith science of geometry, it has another allusion....
Think about it!
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