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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Growing Atheist Population May Affect Future Freemasonry

The Grand Lodge of Scotland is looking into the future about a subject that rarely occurs to most of us within the fraternity - the decreasing population of men who actually believe in a Supreme Being. And the numbers don't look good in the UK, at least, and Scotland in particular.

From the Herald Scotland website Friday:
Scotland's Freemasons have admitted that their future may be under threat because of the rise of atheism.
Senior figures in the organisation have reportedly expressed concern over the number of people turning their backs on religion, with about half the country now saying they do not attend church.
Individuals can only be initiated into the Grand Lodge of Scotland if they state their belief in a "supreme being", something at odds with an increasingly Godless society.
The lodge posted a chart based on the 2011 census on its official Facebook page, showing that people living north of the border are most likely to declare they follow no particular faith.
The page stated: "This graphic fortells of a looming problem and it is one that will be upon us sooner or later." The Grand Lodge declined to comment further, but key figures within the organisation are believed to consider the census findings a long-term problem.
Last year the male-only organisation revealed that its number of new recruits had fallen to around 2,000 today from a high of 45,000 a century ago.
The [United] Grand Lodge of England acknowledged the concerns of its sister organisation, but said that it was more upbeat about its own future.
Mike Baker, its director of communications, said: "Our present experience is that whilst formal religious observance is on the delcine, most people still have some form of personal faith or belief system."

The actual article referenced on the GL of Scotland's Facebook page reads:

Freemasons are not all that good at planning, at least not long term planning. That is one reason why, despite the insistence of the conspiracy theorists, we don't rule the world! We couldn't even if we wanted to!!
This graphic foretells of a looming problem and is one that will be upon us sooner rather than later. The younger generations of Freemasons will be the ones who will have to deal with the problem - unless some thought is given to it now.
To avoid prejudicing the debate we make no comment at this time but please have a look at the graphic and let us know that you think the future of Regular Freemasonry will be...

(Click chart to enlarge.)


  1. "No Religion" is not the same as being an Atheist. In Japan, for example, most people say the are not religious, but frequent tends, Shrines and Churches.

  2. Everything we do is meaningless with a supreme being.

    1. I assume you probably mean "without".

  3. There is an immense literature concerning the interpretation of words like god and supreme being, much of which suggests a metaphoric approach -- in other words seeing the idea as inclusive, taking in the concept of goodness, of meaning, and moving beyond the folkloric biblical views. That was certainly a strong strain in Enlightenment Masonry. The Grand Orient has lodges that work Emulation, use versions of the Christian bibles...that is up to individual brethren and lodges. But there is of course no mention of Jesus or the trinity or that kind of thing. It is not a question with them of atheism but of a sophisticated tolerance, and that is much closer to real masonry than much of the historically offensive prayers, benedictions, hymnal music that has grown like a cancer in some jurisdictions. Mention for example of Jesus or Christ has no place in the lodge and demonstrates a totally faulted notion of what we are about.

  4. As much, if not more harm, has been done to our fellow humans in the name of religion. So what's wrong with atheism? I know many more atheist who are kinder humans and take care of the earth than self proclaiming religious people who believe in a supreme being. So what's wrong with atheism? Nothing is wrong with either side, it's the lack of acceptance that the one side believes in something different and they are the wrong ones that is wrong. Believe in a higher/supreme power, believe in your religion, in your god...I'm fine with you doing that, just don't expect me to believe and don't accuse me of being wrong and don't fight me because I believe differently. That's were humans go wrong.

    1. Deborah,
      There's certainly nothing "wrong" with atheism. The world's been filled with people since time began who wrestled with the unanswerable questions about divine existence, immortality, and the human condition.

      Forgive me if I presume that you've stumbled onto this blog without having anything more than a passing knowledge about Freemasonry - no way to tell from your post. But what is referred to as "regular, recognized" Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being as part of its membership rules (also, it is a fraternity, and so it is open to men only). It is non-sectarian in that its members are not required to profess a specific brand of religion. Merely stating that he has a belief in God, whatever he conceives that to mean, is the only question asked of a petitioner. One aspect of this requirement has to do with the fact that the degree ceremonies are based, in part, on the Old Testament biblical tale of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. An atheist would probably find this conflicting (although perhaps not, if seen merely as an allegory). But the actual discussion of both religion and politics are forbidden during lodge meetings.

      Now, there are other brands of Freemasonry that are not recognized or considered to be regular by the overwhelming majority of millions of Masons around the world that DO permit atheists to join, as well as some that also permit women. Masonic recognition is a worldwide agreement among governing grand lodges that permit their members to visit and converse with each other about Masonic subjects, so regularity and recognition is important for that aspect. But as long as an atheist or a woman (or both) realize their ability to travel and be accepted into lodges outside of their own is limited, they are certainly allowed to become Masons.

      Again, forgive me if I assumed that you just didn't know this and sound condescending. It's hard to tell what someone knows based on a short message.

  5. Disclaimer: During my Military days I was tasked to research and report on alternative religions, extremist organizations, Secret Societies, etc... so sometimes I may make reference to Characters or Organizations which SEEMINGLY have little or nothing to do with Freemasonry. You are right, they donot. But...

    Very important post. Saw it coming. Apparently, so did Aleister Crowley. And the leadership of the Church of Satan (who are all Atheists, by the way) are no doubt hoping for an upsurge of recruitment.

    I am not saying Freemasonry should follow a particular religious path or doctrine, but I am saying it is big enough to accommodate the various religious paths of G-d and it's followers.

    The American model is cool. Keep the Craft Lodge "Universal", non-sectarian, and non-political. But keep the York Rite Christian Templar path as well. The Scottish Rite is a cool alternative for those who donot fully agree with solely 'Christian' elements of the York Rite.

    Also, it is no secret I admire and respect the Scandinavian (the Swedish Rite) model of Freemasonry. Scandinavian Masons of the Swedish Rite with their unique
    Cultural heritage (true Vikings) and society should not be seen as less Masonic or less Brotherly by us American Masons because they have a solely 'Christian' form of Masonry.

    Least we become too comfortable in our conceit; "Another cause of trouble in the early years of the first Grand Lodge was the adoption of the "paragraph concerning G-d and Religion" in Anderson's constitutions. Prior to 1717 the rank and file of Craftsman had been of the Christian persuasion and the Craft itself, to judge by its own constitutions, had been frankly Trinitarian Christian. The new constitutions, now associated with the name of Anderson, changed all this; according to its somewhat ambiguous wording a Mason was required to be only of that religion "in which all good men agree". This did not please those who wished to see Freemasonry remain specifically Christian, consequently they made trouble about it". By Bro.H.L. Haywood.

    1. Sorry but what does our viking heritage has to do with our masonry?
      Swedish rite masonry has its orgins in masonry on the continet and should be considerd an import.

      Schottish rite being non-christian is not universal, in Finland the only non-christian degrees above the blue lodge are MMM and RA, both york rite and Scottish rite requiers christian faith.

      Rasmus Olsson

  6. Religion and a belief of a supreme being is decreasing. The new generation are looking the other direction. Like myself, I'm an Atheist and a Freemason. For me, Atheisim came sometime after I took my obligations. Although I don't believe in a supreme being, I still enjoy the teachings, symbolism, and rituals of Freemasonry.

    1. If you're an atheist you're not a Freemason.

    2. George, it totally depends on where you are and what grand lodge you are under. Grand lodges in amity with yours undoubtedly require a belief of some kind, but others around the world do not. And they are not insubstantial in size.

  7. I'm a memeber under a "mainstream" grand lodge in the U.S. I wasn't an atheist when I became a mason. I declared myself an atheist long after I was I was raised. Trust me, I know that no atheist shall be made a mason. But like I said, I wasn't an atheist when I petitioned, intitated, passed, and raised.

  8. It's not just Atheists.
    A recent PEW Research study found that close to 23% of Americans now define themselves as unaffiliated with any specific religion, and that number has been growing and has surpassed the number of Catholics in the US. Some of them are Atheists or Agnostics, but most are non-religious Theists.

    It is said that one of the things some of these people miss about not being a part of a congregation is the sense of community and ritual. I've wondered if the Deistic ritual and the community aspects of Freemasonry could be an attraction to some of this growing number of non-religious Theists.

  9. Bro. Butler, you are not alone. Many men have become Freemasons having had some sort of belief in a superior power and later lost even any semblance of this belief but continue within the Craft. Since this superior power is not defined and at least in my jurisdiction nobody is asked on how they conceive this power to be, then, even the immutable laws of physics can be what many understand as "superior power" or metaphorically said "supreme being".
    I have always thought that the Grand Orient of France was right in its decision in the XIXth century, since the "religion we can all agree" would be the one where ethical principles are followed, which are the tenets of Freemasonry. Why should not agnostics and atheists be members of our Fraternity as long as they are decent men bettering themselves and humankind? Maybe it is time to update Freemasonry just as in the times of Anderson since before that one had to be a Trinitarian. If "recognised" Freemasonry does not do it, then soon we will be seeing lodges chartered in the Americas by the Grand Orient of France. Actually in Canada there is one already in Montreal.

  10. I think some of the issues behind this can be clarified by an article I presented at the International Conference for the History of Freemasonry a few years ago: http://freimaurer-wiki.de/index.php/En:_The_Masonic_Contexts_of_Theism,_Deism_and_Atheism

  11. This article is interesting to me as a non-Christian American Mason. I'm not particularly thrilled with Masonic Lodge ritual that looks way too much like a Protestant Church Service...and therein lies the problem the article doesn't address. Specifically, would an atheist, even if permitted to join, feel comfortable with Lodge ritual for stated meetings? I seriously doubt it if an individual like me only tolerates it for the purpose of Brotherhood. I could never be a York Rite Mason because it would be impossible for me to take an oath to defend Christianity, so why bother with it to begin with? It is plain to see that religion and a belief in a higher power, or "one true God" is not a requirement to live a just and moral life.


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