Thursday, January 29, 2015

That Religion in Which All Men Agree


Looking into spring, and venturing beyond my usual orbit, is this speaking engagement in Boston in April. Dr. David G. Hackett, Associate Professor of American Religious History at the University of Florida, will discuss his book That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture.

Wednesday, April 8 at 8 p.m. in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, located at 685-725 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 211, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Presented by the American and New England Studies Program, Hackett will speak on “Enlarging the Field: Freemasonry in American Religious History.” Admission is free and open to the public, courtesy of both Boston University Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

I don’t think I will be able to attend, but I expect to review the book and share those thoughts here.


Tom Van Dyke said...

That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture.

I would submit that the "Religion in Which All Men Agree" is solely monotheistic.

One god [God].

Already we're into the God of the Jews and Christians, of the Bible--and arguably Islam's too.

As a "classical theist"

I'm good with that.

Freemasonry is not as "universal" as it might want to be. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and all our New Atheists that come try their luck here on our blog--

Although it was a cold fact at the Founding, talking about "The Religion in Which All Men Agree" makes you Freemasons [classical theists] religious microaggessors here in 2015.

Jonathan Rowe said...

When I read from the Founding era the musings on "natural religion" -- the notion that from reason alone we can conclude that all men of religion believe in God or Providence and a future state of rewards and punishments -- you see such can squint and see "monotheism" when perhaps there is not. Usually there is some "leader" among the gods who can take the form of the Father.

So Zeus for instance, was the figurehead of a polytheistic bunch of gods, but he counts for John Adams as substitute for Jehovah:

"θεμις was the goddess of honesty, justice, decency, and right; the wife of Jove, another name for Juno. She presided over all oracles, deliberations, and councils. She commanded all mortals to pray to Jupiter for all lawful benefits and blessings. Now, is not this (so far forth) the essence of Christian devotion? Is not this Christian piety? Is it not an acknowledgment of the existence of a Supreme Being, of his universal Providence, of a righteous administration of the government of the universe? And what can Jews, Christians, or Mahometans do more?"

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

One thing I've learned after all these years of studying this is that there are many different ways of looking at "the chair."

So one way is to conclude these other religions believed in false gods.

Another way is that since all men are derived from creation by the true God, all men's religions are versed in the true creation story.

So if we assume that the Jewish and or Christian creation story is true, to the extent that the other religions teach something different, they teach a distortion of what is true. But there is truth underneath that distortion.

So I think it was our friend Fortenberger who asserted something like the following (at least this is what I take from it): The Hindus teach a Trinity -- Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. So assuming the Trinity is true, Hindus' notion that there was one God who all of a sudden was three is a distorted attempt to assert and understand what's true.

John Adams, of course, didn't believe in the Trinity (though he did devoutly believe in Providence). So he analogized the Hindu "error" of the Trinity with the orthodox Trinitarian "erroneous" notion of such.

But 1. he J. Adams and his fellow unitarians; 2. orthodox Trinitarian Christians, and 3. Hindus, all believed in the true Providence.

Tom Van Dyke said...

John Adams, sophistic ninny that he was, merely Christianized Zeus, who actually was a bit of an evil bastard.

Magpie Mason said...

Hi Tom,

You write: "I would submit that the 'Religion in Which All Men Agree' is solely monotheistic."

This phrase originally concerned honor and character more than religious persuasion.

The author of this book borrowed his title from the Book of Constitutions of 1723 of the Grand Lodge of England, Masonry's first grand lodge. The document's first Charge, "Concerning God and Religion" (discussed on American Creation occasionally), states "that religion in which all men agree" means "to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance."

This is an often cited and usually misunderstood phrase in modern times, as many well intentioned Freemasons today think it was intended to usher in an age of what we think of as multiculturalism. You have a better understanding of it.

When these words were put on paper, the goal was not only to create a harmonious social environment for Protestants and Roman Catholics, but also to do the same for the various Protestant denominations. I suppose Jews might have been an afterthought, but an afterthought at best, and Muslims were not considered at all. We're talking about English society of three centuries ago.

You also write: "Freemasonry is not as 'universal' as it might want to be. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and all our New Atheists that come try their luck here on our blog."

As regards the Masonic fraternity, from its emergence in 1717 through the end of the 19th century, you are right, but today there are Masons from more faith backgrounds. As the British Empire spread around the world, the fraternity's lodges embraced into membership Muslims, Hindus, and others. I had the pleasure last August of visiting a lodge in Cincinnati that had upon its altar a variety of holy texts. In addition to the Holy Bible, which is preeminent as per Masonic ritual, jurisprudence, and custom, there were the Tanakh, the Koran, a Shinto text, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Jefferson Bible.

While atheism has no place in nearly all the Masonic world, atheists have been permitted to join the oldest and largest Masonic fraternity in France for nearly 150 years.

Your mention of "microaggressions" cracked me up.

Good to hear from you again.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx for the info, Jay. I didn't know Masonry had made monotheism optional. There's no going back now, of course, and the Masons were all about what men have in common rather than what divides them. Still, I have to wonder just how low a common denominator the "religion on which men all agree" can go to before it doesn't qualify as religion atall. At what point is it just the Kiwanis Club with some cool outfits and ceremonies?