Obviously, the first question on the minds of mainstream Freemasons is how did we get grouped together with atheists as a bloc?
From the article EU to hold atheist and freemason summit by Leigh Phillips:
While the EU is a secular body, the three European presidents, of the commission, parliament and EU Council, alongside two commissioners, on Monday met with 24 bishops, chief rabbis, and muftis as well as leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities. The annual dialogue, which has taken place since 2005, is for the first time this year made legally obligatory under Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Under pressure from Belgium, the EU has been forced to hold a summit for atheists, scheduled for 15 October.
Under pressure from Belgium, which constitutionally protects and financially supports humanist organisations as well as churches, the EU has been forced to hold a mirror-image summit, but of atheists, scheduled for 15 October.
However, in a move that perplexed and annoyed humanist groups, the EU atheist summit will also welcome under the rubric of ‘non-religious groups', the Freemasons, the secretive fraternal organisation, according to commission spokeswoman Katharina von Schnurbein.
"I find it rather odd," David Pollock, president of the European Humanist Federation, told EUobserver. "Some of the Grand Lodges are secularist organisations, and strongly for separation of church and state, but they also retain all sorts of gobbledygook and myths such as the Great Architect of the Universe."
Emerging in the late 16th century in England and subsequently spread throughout the world, the Freemasons split in 1877 between the English-speaking lodges and their continental counterparts over the question of god. Anglophone Freemasons require that their members believe in a deity, while continental freemasons do not.
"Their public face is that they do charitable work and they do indeed engage in this, but there are also rituals involving blindfolded candidates with their trouser-legs rolled up during initiation," continued Mr Pollock.
"It's boys' games sort of a thing."
Ah, yes. That "trouser leg" business. They just think that's a laugh riot in Europe. Hilarious. They left out "dodgy handshakes."
"Neither religious groups nor non-religious ones have any greater claim to taking up the time of commissioners."
"But sadly we lost that battle, and so with the atheist summit, at least we're being treated equally, although I'd rather if we were there along with the churches. Instead we're being bundled off with the Freemasons."
I can promise Mr. Pollock, we're no happier about it ourselves. The overwhelming majority of the world's Freemasons require a personal belief in God for admission into their lodges. While the Grand Orient de France does not, and is considered the largest grand lodge of Masons in France, they have been shunned by most Masons in the world specifically because they allow atheists to join and require no belief in a Supreme Being. Along with now allowing their lodges to initiate women.
According to the commission's Ms von Schnurbein, Brussels views the Freemasons as a "community of conscience interconnected throughout Europe," and "a form of humanist organisation."
She dismissed concerns that while churches and atheist groups are free for anyone to join, membership in the Freemasons, a private organisation of men, with some separate Grand Lodges for women, is by invitation only and requires initiation fees and an annual subscription.
The EUobserver attempted to speak with the United Grand Lodge of England, the oldest Grand Lodge of masons in the world, regarding this development but without success.
I'm guessing our English brethren will not be rushing out to Heathrow to catch a flight to Brussels in October.
This is undoubtedly a result of the Grand Orient de France and the equally irregular Grand Orient de Belgique (Grand Orient of Belgium) attempts to have greater influence on EU commissioners. (See Grand Orient Freemasonry and the European Union from February 20th, 2010). Mr. Pollock's heartburn over being lumped in with the Masons stems from Grand Orient Freemasons opening a bureau in Brussels "to lobby against the rising influence of religious organisations in the EU institutions." Jean-Michel Quillardet, former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, was quoted in February as saying the role of Freemasonry is, in part, to "impose the universalist conception of the Enlightenment."
Grand Orient Freemasonry has a long reputation of getting entangled with governments. Unfortunately, few outsiders make the distinction between Grand Orient Freemasonry, and the rest of the Masonic world that has an entirely different view of its role in the lives of its members.