What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest Fraternity. While its traditions look back to earliest history, Masonry in its current form appeared when its public events were noticed by the residents of London, England in 1717. Although Masonry - particularly in its earliest days - had some elements of secrecy, the first 'exposure' of the supposedly highly-secret Masonic ritual actually appeared in 1696! Since that time, there have been tens of thousands of books published about this 'secret organization'. And for over three hundred years, despite the good works done by its members, Freemasonry has continually suffered the slings and arrows of those who seek to use its quiet nature against it.
Freemasonry's singular purpose is to make good men better and its bonds of friendship, compassion and brotherly love have survived even the most divisive political, military and religious conflicts through the centuries. Freemasonry is neither a forum nor a place of worship. It is not a religion nor does it teach a religious philosophy. For nearly three hundred years it has attracted men of high moral character who support the tenets of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice.
We're often asked, "What do Freemasons believe?" The answer is quite simple: essentially the same things that teachers, bus drivers, Rotarians, or anyone else believes. There is no 'requirement' that all Masons believe certain things except insofar as good behavior dictates.
Today, the more than four million Freemasons around the world come from virtually every occupation and profession. Within the Fraternity, however, all meet as equals. In fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of Freemasonry (and an obvious source of irritation for those who thrive on the seeds of discontent) has always been: how can so many men, from so many different walks of life, meet together in peace, ignoring political or religious debates, to conduct their affairs in harmony and friendship and to call each other "Brother!" It's truly a conundrum which perplexes those outside the fraternity. Laying aside petty jealousies and agreeing that issues of politics and religion are not proper for discussion within a lodge, the 'bones of contention' that so often divide are removed thereby making it possible for men of varying religious and political interests to meet on common ground.
Freemasons are taught to conform to the moral laws of society and to abide by the laws of the government under which they live. They are men of charity and good works and they engage in charitable works which have made them "the World's greatest philanthropy!" Their services to mankind represent an unparalleled example of the humanitarian commitment and concern of this unique and honorable Fraternity.