By What Standard Do Freemasons Determine Moral Behavior?

by George
(Connecticut)

It is my understanding that Freemasons must be men of good moral character. What is the standard by which a Freemason's morality is evaluated? My religion (Christianity) teaches me that adultery, fornication, incest, homosexual conduct, and same sex marriage are immoral. I believe that orthodox Judaism shares these moral scruples, as does Islam. That being said, it is my understanding that Freemasonry is a fraternal organization and not a religious one, so the religious scruples noted previously would not be the determining factor about morality. So, by what standard(s) does Freemasonry assess a member or prospective member's moral character? I have read that some grand lodges forbid same sex marriage, while others have no issue with it. This gives me pause. I am a devout Christian gentleman and what first attracted me to Freemasonry and the possibility of joining was the Knights Templar, which are presented as being a strongly Christian organization within the York Rites and Blue Lodge (forgive my ignorance, I am a well intentioned if misinformed fellow). This is no passing interest for me. I have been reading and studying as best I can to make an informed decision. I have just recently purchased "Character Counts", by Michael Glenn Maness, in an effort to discover a balanced presentation to counter all the negative internet noise about the craft. I do long to belong to a fraternal organization with fellow Christian men, that have a mission to perform good works...not to earn heaven, but because they are the right thing to do and because they please God and because they relieve suffering for our fellow man. I have been doing my best to weigh my decisions with care. I would appreciate your considered response. Thank you.

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Nov 12, 2018
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A philosophical question, to be sure
by: Bob

First off, very sorry for the long delay. The owner of this site, Tim, has been having some serious family problems.

Thank you sincerely for your question. It is a very good one.

In some ways, morality is always subjective. For a strict Mormon, the fact that somebody has a morning coffee might make him immoral. A Muslim or a Jew might have the same reservations about somebody who has no qualms eating a pork chop. My Baptist grandmother would've scorned somebody (me, for instance) who enjoys the odd glass of sherry.

There are of course a host of philosophical definitions of morality and ethics. John Stuart Mill would ask you to consider the end consequences of behavior. Kant referred us to rules and commandments. Rousseau argued that rightness is defined by customs and community norms. Martin Buber felt that one's own conscience was the key thing.

If you are looking for absolutes, it's going to be very hard therefore to reassure you. Each grand lodge sets its own standards to some degree. Each lodge is required to make its own decisions on petitioners based on fairly subjective factors. Obviously somebody who beats his wife and kids is not a proper person to be considered. Somebody who has done time for murder or real estate fraud is similarly likely to be denied. Somebody who preaches hate speech is unlikely to pass examination. It is however those less-clear things which can cause us uncertainty.

I wish I had a clearer answer for you.

God bless, sir. I hope you find that for which you seek.

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