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A member of the Free and Accepted Masons or Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, an international secular fraternal order. Freemasons are organized into lodges. Groups of lodges belong to a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient, but there is no single governing body that directs all the lodges.

The origin of the Freemasons is disputed, but the first organized lodges date from 1717 in England. Members consider others in their lodge as "brothers" or "brethren," but consider members of other lodges as brothers only if their Grand Lodges officially recognize each other. Freemasons are sometimes accused of being secretive societies because they have "signs of recognition such as handshakes, passwords, and references that only initiated members would understand."*

Freemasonry is not a secret society, cult, religion or anti-Christian sect, nor is it behind the Illuminati, although it is often accused of being such. Grand Orient lodges do not require belief in a supreme being. They advocate separation of church/religion and state/government, and promote to idea of "liberty, equality, fraternity."* Some Grand Lodges have a Masonic Bible, usually the King James version of the same book accepted by those Christians who accuse the Masons of being anti-Christian.

Much anti-Masonic sentiment has been aroused by various tracts and books. In 1827, for example, William Morgan, who had been denied membership, joined with printer David Miller to published a diatribe entitled “Freemasonry Exposed.” The tract itself may not have caused as much anti-Masonic sentiment as did the ensuing stories in the press that Morgan had been kidnapped and murdered by Masons in retaliation for exposing their secret beliefs and rituals. (The evidence strongly indicates that Morgan escaped from jail, where he was being held for a bad debt, and left town unscathed.)

Typical of  recent attacks on Freemasonry are the works of Jim Shaw (1988: The Deadly Deception: Freemasonry Exposed by One of Its Top Leaders) and Charles Madden (1995: Freemasonry - Mankind's Hidden Enemy: With Current Official Catholic Statements). These malicious writings seem primarily motivated by opposition to Masonic beliefs in the brotherhood of man and the belief that strong moral character has nothing to do with organized religion. The hatred of the group is kept alive by Christian evangelists such as Pat Robertson and talk show hosts like Art Bell (Goeringer 1998).

In 1868, the National Christian Association (NCA) was formed in Pittsburgh for the sole purpose of blaming secretive societies for most of the world's ills. The NCA still exists and still puts the Freemasons at the top of their list of secret societies behind political assassinations, promotion of sexual immorality, and other evils.

Despite this long history of attack and abuse, the Freemasons continue to flourish. There are over 4 million members worldwide. There are also several Masonic affiliated organizations, including the Shriners, which extend the social and charitable work of the Freemasons. Notable Masons include George Washington, Harry Houdini, Benjamin Franklin, and Thurgood Marshall.

further reading


Jacob, Margaret C. 2006. The Radical Enlightenment - Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans. Cornerstone Book Publishers.


Brotherhood of Masons

Freemason -- from the 700 Club to Art Bell, an Object of Conspiracy Thinking (extract) by Conrad Goeringer

Freemasonry Primer

The Irish Freemasons

Freemasons of Vermont

Anti-Masonry Points of View

FREEMASONRY FOR WOMEN by catherine yronwode

Freemasons open doors to 'secret society'

National Heritage Museum

The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts: Celebrating 275 Years of Brotherhood

On July 30, 1733, Henry Price, the Provincial Grand Master of North America, constituted the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston. Celebrating its 275th anniversary this year, the Grand Lodge is the oldest Masonic jurisdiction in the western hemisphere. As part of the festivities, the Museum will open "The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts: Celebrating 275 Years of Brotherhood." This exhibition will trace the history of the state's Masonic governing body, which grants charters, undertakes charitable activities, and standardizes Masonic rituals and customs throughout its jurisdiction.

Last updated 24-Jan-2014

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