The passed resolution reverses the Ruling in its entirety, and concludes by affirming “that Florida Masonry hereby declares its eternal devotion to the religious toleration that is one of the immovable and Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, never to be changed by any man or group of men.”The Jurisprudence Committee had recommended rejection.
The backdrop of the story was Florida’s Grand Master Jorge L. Aladro had a dispute with some non-Abrahamic/ non-Eastern religious Masons and dropped the hammer on Pagans, Wiccans, and Gnostics. It was a horrifying and saddening display of a man who decided he was bigger then the craft and let his own views supersede the values he learned in it. Masonry, for all the breathless hyperventilating the conspiracy theorists do about it’s existence and disproportionate influence on the world always forget one key element, the human element. And Masonry is as handcuffed to it’s human flaws just as any other group.
The fact that it was overturned by his own brothers who he sees every day is a testament to the ability of Masons to focus on Brotherly Love and to remember that when it comes to religion in the lodge –> “that Religion to which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves”.
Masonry’s ability for self-correction throughout history is almost unparalleled, specifically in the area of being open to Brothers who believe in a higher power but have differing beliefs. Speculative Masonry’s know history of tolerance was mainly when it manifested itself during the warlike conditions between the Catholics and Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries. It eventually came to encompass Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and then just about everything under the sun. While we don’t know of Operative Masonry’s religious make-up, we can only assume that since Masons traveled the world the the fraternity also encompassed men of all backgrounds.
This tolerance led Masonry to be viewed with suspicious and outright condemnation.
Pope Leo XIII said of Freemasonry:
“By opening their gates to persons of every creed they promote the great modern error of religious indifference and of the parity of all worships, the best way to annihilate every religion, especially the Roman Catholic, which being the one true one, cannot be joined with others without enormous injustice.”
Yet there is nothing in Masonry about anyone denouncing membership of the Catholic Church. Masonry is just an organization that allows men of their own opinions to spend time together in Truth, Relief, and Brotherly Love. Masonic teaching never mention to change your beliefs, only to inform you of the eternal concepts that created men who built the structures that stood the test of time. Yet the attack against Masonry’s “tolerance persists”
It has been said that the only group which the Nazis hated more than the Jews, were the Freemasons. Adolph Eichmann kept an index with the names of all Freemasons who had supported humanity, tolerance and brotherhood. Most of them were persecuted and arrested.
It has been alleged that the Masons were far more of a threat to the Nazis then anyone else. Yet for the Nazi agenda their tolerance was a virus that would infect people and prevent them from “overthrowing their oppressors”. In Nazi terminology, they wanted people to stop being docile so they could become soldiers and kill others. There is no room for tolerance in this state.
Masonic tolerance is many times misconstrued by people who don’t know or anti-masons looking to twist words for their own agenda. It’s not acceptance. It’s not understanding of other religions. There is no universality of it. There is no indifference to it as Masons are always taught to, paraphrasing, constantly be in motion with the world around them. It just says keep your ideas to yourself while in the lodge. When Masonry came into the light in 1717 by revealing itself, the world was in a constant state of war that was fueled greatly by religious strife. England itself had been in a bloody back and forth between Catholic and Protestant control. For people who enjoyed twisting religious for war and power, Masonry was a huge problem. If people from radically different religious thought processes could co-exist then their doctrine of violence was a sham. So they set out to crush Masonry and it’s been that way ever since.
Masonic tolerance has been a foundation of the fraternity since time immemorial. When the ancient Masons were commissioned to build the Pyramids for the Egyptian pharaohs, it was only sensible that they all secretly had differing opinions when it came to their belief system. Their privileged position in society allowed them to study the knowledge of the world. THis was done to make them better builders but they also became men who saw the world in radically different ways. Especially for the belief in God. For the Operative Masons, seeing the potential destructive elements existing within their fraternity most likely instituted a policy making it so everyone kept their opinions to themselves while in lodge and socializing. This kept everyone in harmony and most importantly kept anyone from killing anyone else. Their tolerance was created for pragmatic reasons. And for their growing roster of members, to prevent the best from joining because of their alternative views could potentially create a situation who someone who wasn’t let in becomes a competitor. So again the “tolerance” was a foundational element for Masonry’s sustained and significant influence.
Going back to Masonry revealing itself to the world in 1717, England was in a state of religious war. For many Catholics and Protestants, they had independently joined the order on their own accord for various reasons. For many of them, Masonry was the only time where a Catholic could meet a Protestant without being forced into some sort of confrontation. Most likely a violent confrontation. How they discovered their religious differences…the human element. While religious discussion is banned, brothers do meet outside the lodge and then anything goes. And they soon must have realized that they could peacefully co-exist and that their differing views weren’t ruining the other’s life. They could still be free to go out and talk religion and convert others to their viewpoint, but for a world in a state of conflict…Masonry was their only refuge.
These were radical ideas then. Of course tolerance was already practiced in many places around the world in regard to religion. Except those were small pockets of peace in the large field of warfare and bloodshed. Today in the western world though, religious tolerance seems like a standard viewpoint boiler point. Everyone should be tolerance and expect it. I find this a twisting of an idea that Mason were largely behind. Masons believe in mason tolerance by the non-debate of religion. That doesn’t mean we have to ACCEPT views we feel are incompatible with out belief system. Far from it. Some Masons have said they have become more Christian since becoming Masons. Other Masons feel their eis only God and nothing else. Each brother has their own journey it seems. No Masons should be forced to accept something we do no agree with. But when in lodge, we should put our opinions at the door and our aprons on. So we can give ourselves a few hours to enjoy the brotherhood, philosophical discussion and inner growth one has in Masonry.
Religious tolerance is one of the pillars of a modern civil democracy/republic. As the Florida Grand Master learned, no matter how small the people or idea, the right idea is the one that will overcome all obstacles and stand the test of time.