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Freemasonry has received many criticisms for many different reasons.

Table of contents
1 Religious Tolerance
2 Political conspiracy theories involving the masons
3 Criticisms of Masonic Cronyism
4 Criticisms based on the moral faults of known Masons
5 Criticism that Freemasonry is a new religion
6 Criticism that Freemasonry worships Satan
7 Criticism of masonic blood oaths
8 Criticisms of the process of becoming a Freemason

Religious Tolerance

Freemasonry around the world may differ from place to place, but it always stresses nondogmatism and tolerance (albeit often within certain defined limits). This openness has led to friction between Freemasonry and organizations which view ecumenism with a negative eye, or insist on intolerance towards other forms of belief and worship. Masons have thus been opposed throughout their history by various conservative religious groups, such as conservative Protestants and radical Muslims.

The most vigorous opposition to the fraternity, however, has come from the Catholic Church (primarily because of the religious tolerance of Masonry). The first papal condemnation of Freemasonry came in 1738 from Pope Clement XII in his papal bull Eminenti Apostolatus Specula, repeated by several later popes, notably Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Humanum Genus (1884). The 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly declares that joining Freemasonry entailed automatic excommunication; the revised Code issued in 1983 does not explicitly name Masonic orders among the secret societies condemned in canon 1374. However, in a letter to the United States Bishops from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the interpretation was made clear - the prohibition against Catholics joining Masonic orders remains.

The general reason given for this opposition is that the Catholic Church views Freemasonry as a "naturalized religion".

One reason the Free Methodist Church was founded in the 1860s was that its founders believed the Methodist Church was being influenced by Freemasons and members of secret societies. The Free Methodist Church continues to prohibit its members from also joining societies such as the Freemasons. Recently the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest association of Baptists in the United States, also stated that participation in Freemasonry is inconsistent with their beliefs.

The essence of these criticisms is that the best good for a person is to go to heaven, and the only way to do that would be via the critics own belief system. Therefore, a masonic society - or indeed any society which tolerates other open beliefs - are doing the worst thing possible by leading to a loss of faith. This genre of criticism has been has been extremely reduced since most societies like the United States are founded on religious tolerance, and many adherents of the religions that formally critized masons now believe in the main masonic principles.

Political conspiracy theories involving the masons

The main genre of anti-masonic criticisms at the present time involve the idea that masons secretly involve their organization in politics in some way. These ideas have been influenced by the boasts of masons that many political figures in the past 300 years have been masons. The focus and methods of this masonic political connection differ in the different theories. Some say the masons constantly plot to increase their power and wealth, others say the plot to produce a new world order.

The most basic and oldest of these theories, that the masons secretly plotted to create society to their ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity, and religious tolerance, are not really denied by the masons. Freemasonry is proud of the membership of many of the Founding fathers for example. As people have mainly accepted these core masonic values, they have been forced to come up with more sinister motives as to what the Freemasons allegedly conspire to do.

The former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was obsessed about Jew-Masonic conspiracies (contubernio judeomasónico). In this he was echoing many Catholic writers which preceded him, including Fr. Denis Fahey. The Law for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism (March 1, 1940) and its Special Tribunal (1940-1964) crushed Spanish masons. A centre in Salamanca held the seized documents and files for every mason, suspected or real.

Criticisms of Masonic Cronyism

A criticism that may or not have to do with the specific nature of Freemasonry, but may be applied generally to any type of organization or secret society, is the practice of cronyism, or giving favors to fellow members. There are many stories of Freemasons getting preferred treatment for certain jobs, houseing, etc. There are also many stories of Masons getting out of speeding tickets, or worse criminal charges. The most famous of these is the Mexican general who stormed the Alamo, who was alleged to have been let free from the death penalty via the masonic distress call. Many Freemasons admit these things might happen, but most criticize them as abuses.

Criticisms based on the moral faults of known Masons

Although any religion can be critized for the moral faults of some of its members, Freemasonry is in an even more open position for criticism since its sole aim is to improve its members morality, even above whatever religion they might be in. Many critize the Masons for being charitable mainly to only other Masons, a fact which is made worse by the class and racial inequalities sometimes found in Masonic lodges. Others critize the fact that members seem to be obsessed with ritual minutae and their status in terms of their degree, discussing it in an inordinate amount relative to any moralizing. Others argue that the Freemasons are primarily a social club and that any moral tone is exaggerated.

Criticism that Freemasonry is a new religion

Many hold that Freemasonry is a new religion. For example, it has ritual which is far more developed then almost any Protestant denomination. It also has many elaborate lodges, which are comparable to cathedrals in terms of architectural splendor, and (especially in the Scottish Rite) are decorated much like temples or churches. It even has its own way of saying Amen, "So mote it be" (a phrase which was copied and used by Aleister Crowley and the rituals of the OTO). It can also be argued that any organized system of morality (which the masons claim to be) is a religion.

Criticism that Freemasonry worships Satan

While the practice of theurgy, or other magical or mystical systems, is not particularly associated with Freemasonry (mainstream Masonry has always tended more to rationalism than to mysticism), there are some groups of Masons, such as Masonic Rosicrucians, that may interpret Masonic ritual magically (or "hermetically"), which is their right as Masons, given the fraternity's nondogmatic stance. But the very existence of "fringe" hermetic interpretations within Masonry has lead some conservative Christians to label Freemasonry as "Satanic". This charge, vehemently denied by most Masons, has been exacerbated by numerous fraudulent attacks through the years, many of which have propagated these ideas, such as the famous Taxil hoax.

Criticism of masonic blood oaths

The traditional Masonic obligations, sworn to by a candidate during the initiation ritual, are sometimes called "blood oaths", particularly by those critical of the fraternity. The candidate wishes severe physical punishment on himself should he ever reveal the secrets of Freemasonry to a non-Mason. While many non-Masons are horrified by this, Masons defend the traditional obligations as no more literal than the commonplace childhood "blood oaths", like "cross my heart and hope to die" - a very psychologically powerful way to express a serious bond or promise. In addition, some Masons argue that the bloody punishments mentioned in the obligations are, historically, references to the punishments that the state used to inflict on defenders of civil liberties and religious freedoms, such as Freemasons. But in spite of repeated attempts to defend them, by the early 1980s, the "blood oaths" had become quite problematic from a public relations standpoint, and most Masonic jurisdictions replaced them with more politically correct "bloodless oaths".

Criticisms of the process of becoming a Freemason

Many non-Masons mistakenly believe that individuals become Freemasons through invitation, patrimony, or other non-democratic means. This is incorrect, as an individual must ask freely and without persuasion to become a Freemason in order to join the fraternity.

Many find a problem with this system, due to the idea that if one is only supposed to want to join purely through his own will, how is it possible that the society would attract morally good adherents when almost all information about the society is from a critical angle. This dilema is further exposed by the Freemasons self described mission to "make good men better". If the system of morality is secret, how is the good man supposed to be attracted to it? In practice, Freemasons have been known to not really question the motives of anyone proposing to enter.

The popular television program The Simpsons once featured an episode revolving around the "Stonecutters," a group obviously meant as a satire of Freemasons and similar organizations. This episode promoted the myth that, in order to join the group, one must "... be the son of a ... [Freemason] or save the life of a ... [Freemason]", which is, again, untrue.

Many of these myths have taken hold in the public imagination partly because Freemasons tend to be low-key and somewhat secretive, although this is changing to some extent, as Masons have attempted in recent years to make their organization more open to public view, and have begun to deny the charges of the anti-Masons more vigorously (see [1]).

See also: United States Anti-Masonic Party