Freemasonry and Masonry are pretty much two names of the same fraternal organization. Efforts have been made to define a difference without any universal agreement among the members. It differs from the building tradesmen, known as operative masons, who physically work with stones and bricks. The fraternity most likely came in some way from the masons who constructed the great Cathedrals and castles at an earlier time.
Some traditional definitions of Masonry use language regarding making good men better by using symbols and allegory. This probably is not why many most men join and continue their membership.
Each member has joined for his own reason and has his own understanding of what Masonry means to him.
There are three groups of members with differing views as to the meaning of Masonry who are frequently at odds with each other for control of the fraternity. One looks at it as a social club and a way to have some fun. The second is interested in the philanthropies and community service. The third is seeking Masonic Light.
There is a sense of brotherhood, with members looking out for the extended. family of which they are a part. Each knows that he can trust the others.
While Masonry is not a religion, it requires all its members to have some religion and believe in a power greater than themselves.
While it is not a charity, vast amounts are donated by its members.
A search for knowledge and truth, whatever that might be, is encouraged. Members should learn the secrets within themselves so as to live as better men within Society.
Individuals are members of local groups known as lodges. The lodges are organized into Grand Lodges. While these Grand Lodges are completely independent from each other, they have a system of recognition which permits a member of one part of the world to visit other lodges elsewhere.
Masonry is NOT a secret organization. Masonry is an organization with some secrets. Masonic temples are clearly marked with the name and symbols of the organization for all to see. Members wear rings and pins that proudly show that they are Masons. The secrets, for the most part, are words, signs, handshakes and definitions of the meanings of certain symbols. The secrets serve to distinguish Masons from non-Masons. A Mason may visit Masonic lodges around the world. He may be quizzed on the secrets. If he clearly knows the secrets, it proves he is a Mason and he will be admitted to the lodge. There is nothing nefarious regarding the secrets.
Masonry is NOT a religion. Masonry is non-sectarian, allows members of all religions to join its ranks and does not observe the practices of any particular religion. In fact, religious discussion within its lodge meeting is not allowed. The only ties to religion are that a candidate for its degrees is asked if he believes in a Supreme Being (God) and he is asked to take an oath or obligation over a bible. If he states that he does not believe in a Supreme Being, he is not allowed to continue, for an oath over a bible or holy book would be meaningless. It may be a Christian bible, Jewish bible, Koran or any other holy book of the candidate’s choice. The lodge usually furnishes the holy book or the candidate may provide his own book if it has special meaning to him. In Chicago Lodge, a copy of the holy book is presented to the candidate at the completion of his degrees as a memento that he was made a Mason. Also, non-sectarian prayers are said at the opening and closing of meetings and parts of the ritual during the presentation of degrees have their roots in the Old Testament. A bible is placed upon an altar in the center of the lodge room during meetings.
Masonry is NOT a political organization. In fact, political discussions are not allowed in its lodge meetings. Masonry is a popular fraternity, spanning members of every occupation. It stands to reason that many of its members were and may be politicians. In fact, some of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution where Masons. Fourteen presidents, and many members of congress were and are Masons. So are office workers, laborers and others. Politics has no place in Masonry.
Masons have NEVER restricted Catholics from joining its ranks. However, in the past there has been much discussion, including Papal declarations and Canon Laws within the Catholic Church, stating that Masonry is incompatible with Catholicism. Today, many Catholics enjoy the benefits of Masonry.
Masonry is NOT anti-Christ. Some have felt that masonry is anti-Christ because Jesus or Christ is not mentioned in its opening and closing prayers or rituals. Jesus is not mentioned because Masonry is completely non-sectarian. There are members of all religions within its ranks, some of whom are not Christian. Mention of Jesus would favor one belief over others.
Masons are NOT devil worshipers. Satan or the devil is absolutely never mentioned favorably in any of its prayers or rituals.