Livingstone here. Welcome to Masonology. The blog about Freemasonry and all things related to Masonic Self-Improvement, Masonic Thought, and the Freemason World.
An interesting topic popped up on /r/Freemasonry today and I decided it made an good entry into this blog. The topic was regarding how this Masonic Candidate would approach the obligation because while he did believe in God, he did not believe in any specific religion.
Americans today believe in God just as much as they have since the question was first asked of whether they believe in God. 9 out of 10 Americans believe in God according to Gallup. Yet interestingly enough, 15%-20% of Americans have no religious affiliation, according to a Wikipedia on Religion in the United States. The Huffington Post ran an article on this. Religion in America hits a low point. They estimated approximately 20% of the country felt this way. Which immediately shows a real gap of people who believe in God yet don’t have a particular religious institution to affiliate with. It’s an extremely interesting dynamic as many Americans feel that religion is losing influence. And many Americans see this as a bad thing.
While the question of this being bad or not is an interesting future topic, that is not what we’re talking about now. For those Americans who believe in God not any particular religion, Masonry can be seen as an attractive but also hard to get into group. Especially because of the VSL. For the uninitiated, excuse the double meaning, the VSL is the “Volume of Sacred Law”. The Masonic term for your religion book. Think the Torah, Bible, Quran, Upanishads, Vedas, Tipitaka, etc. But in a twist of fate, no book has been directly written by God for Deists. That would have made it too easy and taken all the fun out of everything.
The VSL is the foundation of Masonry and is the most important tool in our life. It is our life in many ways and for many Masons, what their VSL says is the rule and guide to their life. It is not something to be trifled with. I’ll have more about what VSL’s mean to Masonry at a later date but let’s stick to the problem.
So the big question is, what do you do? As typical in Masonry, there are many ways to the same objective.
The first and simplest is the use a Bible as a VSL. Now this may be met with suspicion on your part but I would say that if you are joining Masonry then you need to subdue your suspicions. You will encounter many people of different faiths so to be suspicious or apprehensive of their faiths will not serve you well in Masonry. The Bible at the end of the day is the book that explains God to us for Jews and Christians. And while your explanation may differ, it’s all about God. So don’t over think it and use the Bible. It won’t burn you.
WITH THAT SAID, you absolutely deserve the right to disconnect yourself from the Bible for your own reasons. If someone made me swear on a VSL different from my own, I would be uncomfortable with the whole process as I have chosen my faith and I am strictly in allegiance to it. But you don’t have a specific faith. But maybe you do. How you describe yourself is your opinion and yours alone as a deist. We as Masons must respect that.
What has happened in American history is that deists have taken their obligation on the Jefferson Bible. What is this you say?
Thomas Jefferson had a belief system all of his own. He believed in God and the existence of Jesus but he very much ad opinions of his own. So he decided to cut and paste all the teachings of Jesus into a book and omit everything else. The book was essentially Jesus’s message, speaking as himself and for God. And Freemasons who believe in God but don’t have a specific belief system have used Jefferson’s Bible to take their obligation on.
Masonry is terrific for those who don’t believe in a particular religion but was structure in their life. I personally would argue that when you go through the first degree of Masonry, you will realize very quickly that having some sort of Holy Book and religion to subscribe to will absolutely amplify the experience. But that is my perspective. Christianity fits very well with Masonry and the general complains people have about Christianity will seem very irrelevant after talking to some Christian Masons. And Christianity and Freemasonry are surprising in how they compliment each other. Especially in America. I am only saying this as I am out of lodge, inside my opinion would be kept to itself. In Masonry, once you’re in, you are a brother and will be treated as such no matter what you believe in your heart.
So for those who believe in God but have not found anything to fit with God in their travels, consider The Bible or Jefferson’s Bible if you plan to initiate into Masonry. They won’t let you down.