Sunday, March 23, 2008

'A pious fraud'

This Easter weekend marks another (the third, I believe) Blogswarm Against Theocracy. It was first brought to my attention last year by my brother Traveling Man of the blog Movable Jewel, who wrote several eloquent articles on the matter in 2007. During this year's Easter swarm he's given us two posts, one titled "Blogs Against Theocracy," the other "There are Two Pillars in My Lodge."

I've written on the subject many times on The Taper as well.

Simply put, religion as we know it has no place in government. It's fine if people in government have religious opinions and views, but it's not their place to enact laws or policies that favor their religious persuasion or prejudices. Sunday blue laws should go. Closing government offices on "Good Friday" is ridiculous. Organized religious prayers conducted on government property — schools as well as in Congress — probably aren't such a good idea. Religionists don't play well with others; tolerance is seldom displayed.

While others write blog posts this weekend about the need for separation of church and state, I want to explore the nature of religion itself. What is it? Why do we want it or need it in our lives? Does it lead to people getting along better or does it serve to divide and inflame us? How and why has it become so intertwined with government? What are the true objectives of those who perpetuate organized religion? Why do religionists cling to antiquated, non-scientific, unreasonable ideas and seek to keep others locked in the same mindset?

Lately I've been reading the works of Thomas Paine. Not often mentioned in American history class, he wrote Common Sense, which rallied the American colonists in 1776 to take up arms against the British Crown. Without Paine, Americans might still be singing God Save the Queen and wrapping ourselves in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack.

During the mid-to-late 1770s, Paine became a celebrity and a leading figure in the struggle for American independence. Though he came from "lowly" stock (his father was a Quaker who made stays for ladies' corsets), he was soon hobnobbing with the gentry and the elite of his time: Washington, Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John and Samuel Adams.

Some of the more aristocratic members of American society, however, such as William Smith of Philadelphia and Gouverneur Morris of New York, continued to look down their noses at Paine because he was "without fortune, without family or connections, ignorant even of grammar."

Biographer John Kane, in his Tom Paine: A Political Life, called Thomas Paine "the greatest public figure of his generation."

President John Adams wrote in 1805: "I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years that Tom Paine. Without the pen of Paine the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain."

Of Paine President Thomas Jefferson wrote: "[An] advocate for human liberty, Paine wrote for a country which permitted him to push his reasoning to whatever length it would go.... No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style; in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language."

Even President Abraham Lincoln, over a half century after Paine's death, said, "I never tire of reading Paine."

After the American War of Independence, Paine turned his eyes on France's revolutionary struggle while continuing to write pamphlets calling for the end of the English monarchy. He was awarded French citizenship and was elected a delegate to the National Convention. His opposition to the execution of Louis XVI led to his imprisonment for a year during the Reign of Terror.

He wrote The Age of Reason during and after his imprisonment.

When he returned to America, most of the American public turned their back on him, or worse, labeled him an "agitator" and an "atheist."

Gordon Wood, writing in the foreword to his Common Sense and Other Writings, called The Age of Reason "a penetrating critique of organized religion that struck many readers as blasphemous."

In the introduction to his edition of Paine's works, Wood says, "Unfortunately for Paine's reputation, most of the common people that he emotionally represented brought with their democratic revolution and their anti-aristocratic attitudes an intense religiosity and an evangelical Christianity that Paine never shared. Upon his return to America, Paine was attacked as a 'lying, drunken, brutal infidel,' and sympathizers like aged Samuel Adams grieved over what they took to be Paine's efforts to 'unchristianize the mass of our citizens.' Paine denied truthfully that he was ever an atheist, but it was to no avail. Every defense he made only made matters worse. He had lived by the pen and in the end he died by the pen. He became, in his biographer's words, one of 'the first modern public figures to suffer firsthand' from a scurrilous and powerful press. He was always a man out of joint with his times, and he has remained so ever since."

Though I was an avid student of American history in high school and college, and of course had heard of Thomas Paine, somehow I never read either of his most famous works, Common Sense and The Age of Reason.

When I finally discovered these two tracts, I was elated to have found a new literary and intellectual hero, a like-minded writer who expressed so handily ideas that I had long held on the subjects of both freedom and religion. To become aware that I had, without his direct influence, arrived at ideas so similar to Paine's, was a heady realization.

Thomas Paine was not an atheist, and he often said so, in public as well as in The Age of Reason itself. The tract challenged the prevailing religious beliefs, both Protestant and Catholic, and enraged many Christians who chose to refuse to think about what Paine was actually saying about religion.

In The Age of Reason, Paine held that there is no "word of God" as we define it, written in books by man. The true Word of God — true Religion itself — he argues, is Creation itself: The stars, our sun, the planets, the Earth and Nature herself, and the principles that govern them. Natural philosophy is the only true religion. He writes,
It is from the study of the true theology that all our knowledge of science is derived, and it is from that knowledge that all the arts have originated.

The Almighty Lecturer, by displaying the principles of science in the structure of the universe, has invited man to study and to imitation. It is as if He had said to the inhabitants of this globe, that we call ours, "I have made an earth for man to dwell upon, and I have rendered the starry heavens visible, to teach him science and the arts. He can now provide for his own comfort, AND LEARN FROM MY MUNIFICENCE TO ALL, TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER."

Of what use is it, unless it be to teach man something, that his eye is endowed with the power of beholding to an incomprehensible distance, an immensity of worlds revolving in the ocean of space? Or of what use is it that this immensity of worlds is visible to man? What has man to do with the Pleiades, with Orion, with Sirius, with the star he calls the North Star, with the moving orbs he has named Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, if no uses are to follow from their being visible? A less power of vision would have been sufficient for man, if the immensity he now possesses were given only to waste itself, as it were, on an immense desert of space glittering with shows.

It is only by contemplating what he calls the starry heavens, as the book and school of science, that he discovers any use in their being visible to him, or any advantage resulting from his immensity of vision. But when he contemplates the subject in this light he sees an additional motive for saying, that nothing was made in vain; for in vain would be this power of vision if it taught man nothing.
He argues that it is the study of "the internal evidence the thing carries with itself, and the evidence of circumstances that unites with it" that is imperative, not the study of dead languages and the "humble sphere of linguistry" such as ancient Latin and Greek, which were about all that was taught in what passed for centers of education during the 1,400 years since the formation of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church.
...[T]he outrage offered to the moral justice of God by supposing him to make the innocent suffer for the guilty, and also the loose morality and low contrivance of supposing him to change himself into the shape of a man, in order to make an excuse to himself for not executing his supposed sentence upon Adam — putting, I say, those things aside as matter of distinct consideration, it is certain that what is called the Christian system of faith, including in it the whimsical account of the creation — the strange story of Eve — the snake and the apple — the ambiguous idea of a man-god — the corporeal idea of the death of a god — the mythological idea of a family of gods, and the Christian system of arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three, are all irreconcilable, not only to the divine gift of reason that God hath given to man, but to the knowledge that man gains of the power and wisdom of God, by the aid of the sciences and by studying the structure of the universe that God has made.

The setters-up, therefore, and the advocates of the Christian system of faith could not but foresee that the continually progressive knowledge that man would gain, by the aid of science, of the power and wisdom of God, manifested in the structure of the universe and in all the works of Creation, would militate against, and call into question, the truth of their system of faith; and therefore it became necessary to their purpose to cut learning down to a size less dangerous to their project, and this they effected by restricting the idea of learning to the dead study of dead languages.

They not only rejected the study of science out of the Christian schools, but they persecuted it, and it is only within about the last two centuries that the study has been revived. So late as 1610, Galileo, a Florentine, discovered and introduced the use of telescopes, and by applying them to observe the motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies, afforded additional means for ascertaining the true structure of the universe. Instead of being esteemed for those discoveries, he was sentenced to renounce them, or the opinions resulting from them, as a damnable heresy. And, prior to that time, Vigilius was condemned to be burned for asserting the antipodes, or in other words that the earth was a globe, and habitable in every part where there was land; yet the truth of this is now too well known even to be told.

If the belief of errors not morally bad did no mischief, it would make no part of the moral duty of man to oppose and remove them. There was no moral ill in believing the earth was flat like a trencher, any more than there was moral virtue in believing that it was round like a globe; neither was there any moral ill in believing that the Creator made no other world than this, any more than there was moral virtue in believing that he made millions, and that the infinity of space is filled with worlds. But when a system of religion is made to grow out of a supposed system of creation that is not true, and to unite itself therewith in a manner almost inseparable therefrom, the case assumes an entirely different ground. It is then that errors not morally bad become fraught with the same mischiefs as if they were. It is then that the truth, though otherwise indifferent itself, becomes an essential by becoming the criterion that either confirms by corresponding evidence, or denies by contradictory evidence, the reality of the religion itself. In this view of the case, it is the moral duty of man to obtain every possible evidence that the structure of the heavens, or any other part of creation affords, with respect to systems of religion. But this, the supporters or partisans of the Christian system, as if dreading the result, incessantly opposed, and not only rejected the sciences, but persecuted the professors. Had Newton or Descartes lived three or four hundred years ago, and pursued their studies as they did, it is most probable they would not have lived to finish them; and had Franklin drawn lightning from the clouds at the same time, it would have been at the hazard of expiring for it in the flames.

Latter times have laid all the blame upon the Goths and Vandals; but, however unwilling the partisans of the Christian system may be to believe or to acknowledge it, it is nevertheless true that the age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. There was more knowledge in the world before that period than for many centuries afterwards; and as to religious knowledge, the Christian system, as already said was only another species of mythology, and the mythology to which it succeeded was a corruption of an ancient system of theism.

All the corruptions that have taken place in theology and in religion, have been produced by admitting of what man calls revealed religion. The Mythologists pretended to more revealed religion than the Christians do. They had their oracles and their priests, who were supposed to receive and deliver the word of God verbally, on almost all occasions.

Since, then, all corruptions, down from Moloch to modern predestinarianism, and the human sacrifices of the heathens to the Christian sacrifice of the Creator, have been produced by admitting of what is called revealed religion, the most effectual means to prevent all such evils and impositions is not to admit of any other revelation than that which is manifested in the book of creation, and to contemplate the creation as the only true and real word of God that ever did or ever will exist; and that everything else, called the word of God, is fable and imposition.
In case you simply skimmed the above, I'll summarize: (1) God and his goodness can be found only by studying his Creation, not by reading "revealed religion" written by men. (2) Revealed religion is nothing more than mythology colored with later writers' morals, opinions and, often, chicanery. (3) Those who held religious power realized that the advancement of science would decrease their power, and therefore sought to stymie scientific progress.

In the following passage, Paine gives credit to Martin Luther's reforms for allowing scientific study to resume outside the control of the Catholic Church, but says that the reformers didn't do anything to reform religion.
It is an inconsistency scarcely possible to be credited, that anything should exist, under the name of a religion, that held it to be irreligious to study and contemplate the structure of the universe that God has made. But the fact is too well established to be denied. The event that served more than any other to break the first link in this long chain of despotic ignorance is that known by the name of the Reformation by Luther. From that time, though it does not appear to have made any part of the intention of Luther, or of those who are called reformers, the sciences began to revive, and liberality, their natural associate, began to appear. This was the only public good the Reformation did; for with respect to religious good, it might as well not have taken place. The mythology still continued the same, and a multiplicity of National Popes grew out of the downfall of the Pope of Christendom.
The national popes of Paine's time continued down to this day. Protestantism's countless sub-categorical denominations have given us saints and sinners — you decide which is which and who is who — Dwight Moody, Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, John Hagee, Ernest Angley, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Jesse Jackson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Sam Kinison, Jeremiah Wright... men and women who make or made their living "revealing" their interpretations of God to anyone who will visit their church or turn on the television and pony up a tithe or donation to keep them in business.

Paine continues in The Age of Reason:
From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was, but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the Church, upon the subject of what is called redemption by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son when he could not revenge himself in any other way, and as I was sure a man would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons. This was not one of that kind of thoughts that had anything in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it. I believe in the same manner at this moment; and I moreover believe, that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.

It seems as if parents of the Christian profession were ashamed to tell their children anything about the principles of their religion. They sometimes instruct them in morals, and talk to them of the goodness of what they call Providence, for the Christian mythology has five deities — there is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the God Providence, and the Goddess Nature. But the Christian story of God the Father putting his son to death, or employing people to do it (for that is the plain language of the story) cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him that it was done to make mankind happier and better is making the story still worse — as if mankind could be improved by the example of murder; and to tell him that all this is a mystery is only making an excuse for the incredibility of it.

How different is this to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.
Like Paine, I too had "doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair" at a young age.

I attended a large Southern Baptist church from the time I was two weeks old until I was 18 years old. Once free from the restraints imposed by my devout parents, I didn't go back. I'd seen enough in my years attending a "house of God," listening to the inspired revelations of con-artist preachers.

In just a few short years — those impressionable years between the ages of 12 and 16 — I saw more than enough. An Ernest Angley lookalike pastor absconded with church funds. His minister of music knocked up the 18-year old church secretary. The music man's daughter was banging half the boys in the church. A deacon shot another deacon for banging his wife. A deacon who was a police captain was arrested for shaking down the businesses in the city. A youth leader who later came out as gay took young boys downtown to march in protests against a local porn shop. I learned how to cuss from visiting the homes of my young Sunday School mates. I had my first sexual experience with a preacher's daughter.

While all this was going on, I remained (and still am, to this day) a spiritual person. I believe in God, in a Force that set the Universe in motion. Or, perhaps, the Force is the Universe Itself. I saw and see God in the Sun, the sky, the earth. I feel God's presence and existence in the breeze on my skin and the warmth on my face when I go outside each morning. I see God in the hawks of the air, and when I walk by the river. I see God in the face of my child. I'm touched by God when I'm loved by a friend.

When I feel the need to experience God as a "personality," I do so. Emerson wrote, "In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color."

But I've never seen Jesus, or seen evidence that Christians actually emulate the supposed teachings of Jesus, in their actions or in their churches. I've never felt his presence. To me, he seems a convenient mythological scapegoat for those who want to escape responsibility, or an insurance policy against a mythological Hell.

Did Jesus once live? Was he the Son of God, or, like all of us, a Son of God? Did he teach and preach how to love one another? Or was he a would-be King of the Jews, heir to the throne of Israel, descendant of David and Solomon, a convenient martyr to be resurrected as a Cosmic Front Man for a now 2,000-year old religion run by popes and preachers bent on theocratic power?

The Universe is a hell of a lot bigger than our little 25,000-miles-around blue-green marble. The Creator has a lot more important things to do than to constantly send saviors to every planet "in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy," much less the entire Universe. As Paine wrote,
From whence, then, could arise the solitary and strange conceit that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world, because, they say, one man and one woman had eaten an apple? And, on the other hand, are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a redeemer? In this case, the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of deaths, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.....

It is possible to believe, and I always feel pleasure in encouraging myself to believe it, that there have been men in the world who persuade themselves that what is called a pious fraud might, at least under particular circumstances, be productive of some good. But the fraud being once established, could not afterward be explained, for it is with a pious fraud as with a bad action, it begets a calamitous necessity of going on.

The persons who first preached the Christian system of faith, and in some measure combined it with the morality preached by Jesus Christ, might persuade themselves that it was better than the heathen mythology that then prevailed. From the first preachers the fraud went on to the second, and to the third, till the idea of its being a pious fraud became lost in the belief of its being true; and that belief became again encouraged by the interests of those who made a livelihood by preaching it.

But though such a belief might by such means be rendered almost general among the laity, it is next to impossible to account for the continual persecution carried on by the Church, for several hundred years, against the sciences and against the professors of science, if the Church had not some record or tradition that it was originally no other than a pious fraud, or did not foresee that it could not be maintained against the evidence that the structure of the universe afforded.
Organized religion, in all its guises, has as its prime motive not to make us happier or better, but to control and manipulate us through guilt and fear. That's not what my God is all about.

As the Bible says, "God is love."

After discussing the fact that God by nature cannot be a mystery — he is open and available to us all — and he does not deal in miracles, or randomly abandon the laws of nature, Paine begins to close his essay by telling us what he believes religion is and should be:
Religion, therefore, being the belief of a God and the practice of moral truth, cannot have connection with mystery. The belief of a God, so far from having anything of mystery in it, is of all beliefs the most easy, because it arises to us, as is before observed, out of necessity. And the practice of moral truth, or, in other words, a practical imitation of the moral goodness of God, is no other than our acting toward each other as he acts benignly toward all. We cannot serve God in the manner we serve those who cannot do without such service; and, therefore, the only idea we can have of serving God, is that of contributing to the happiness of the living creation that God has made. This cannot be done by retiring ourselves from the society of the world and spending a recluse life in selfish devotion.

The very nature and design of religion, if I may so express it, prove even to demonstration that it must be free from everything of mystery, and unencumbered with everything that is mysterious. Religion, considered as a duty, is incumbent upon every living soul alike, and, therefore, must be on a level with the understanding and comprehension of all. Man does not learn religion as he learns the secrets and mysteries of a trade. He learns the theory of religion by reflection. It arises out of the action of his own mind upon the things which he sees, or upon what he may happen to hear or to read, and the practice joins itself thereto.

When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, and not only above, but repugnant to human comprehension, they were under the necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar to all questions, inquiries and speculation. The word mystery answered this purpose, and thus it has happened that religion, which is in itself without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.

As mystery answered all general purposes, miracle followed as an occasional auxiliary. The former served to bewilder the mind, the latter to puzzle the senses. The one was the lingo, the other the legerdemain.
Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests to us in On Self-Reliance:
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark....

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn....

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind....

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
Quotations are from Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason" and Ralph Waldo Emerson's "On Self-Reliance." The bit about the "unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy" is from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

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  1. Excellent post. Paine, along with Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, were deeply suspicious of Christianity, and rightfully so. Paine, more than anyone, understood that Christianity as a religion had set itself up to be at loggerheads with logic and progressive knowledge.

    It seems almost amazing to me that in an age far removed from Paine's we would still be battling the superstitious evils of the Jesusistanis, but we are.

  2. Im going to read the whole post, I wish HBO would make a series about Paine. I wonder if Taoism and Buddhism, to the complex hierarchy of Hinduism were a similar response. Luckily America had several of these brave hearts at the crucial moment in the vanguard.

  3. Brother Widows Son,
    Great inspiring post.
    I never understood why the Grand Lodge of Ohio wanted Halcyon to remove Paines and Spinoza's writings?

    I had seemed to think their writings were synonamous with Freemasonic principles?

    But I was informed by an unimformed DDGM that Paine and Spinoza were not in accordance iwth the Grand Lodge of Ohio's freemasonic tendencies.

    Go figure.

    Great Post, and all Freemasons need to go back and study the 1700's and what those men struggled for.

    Universal Brotherhood or Division amongst supposed Brothers?

    Thank Bro WS, always good to read and inform.

  4. Both the Grand Orients of France and the United States actively support the separation of church and state.

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  6. In addition to Thomas Paine, I recommend to you David Hume, particularly "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion," and, interestingly, Ethan Allen (of the Green Mountain Boys) "Reason, The Only Oracle of Man."

    These guys have inspired quite a bit of religious anarchy in me these days.

  7. Everything I know of tom Paine I read at squashed
    . I suppose I should do more reading!

  8. Paine was indeed an intriguing writer and public figure. Religion should most definitely be removed from politics. To say Paine, Adams, and Jefferson were suspicious of orthodox Christianity is absolutely true. To say they were irreligious is an error. If you read Jefferson's writings, he was a deeply religious man. "I believe in one God, and no more, and I hope for happiness beyond this life." (The Age of Reason). People often say 'I'm spiritual, but not religious'. The thesaurus says they are synonyms, and have been for quite some time.

    An issue to consider is that 'religion' is not clearly defined on either side. Religion, in the past, has been government. For a greater part of man's existence, religion and government were inseperable-going back to the early days of man. Government itself is intrinsically a religious institution. This is NOT to say the two concepts are inseparable. However, since the first shaman began to hold sway over his tribe, religion has been a central theme to government. People say religion is all about control; this is true, but is it intrinsically wrong? I maintain it is neither good nor evil intrinsically, nor is government.

    Certainly, we have seen great evils in the application of either, and governments without religion have proven themselves just as evil in some cases as those with religion. (Pol Pot's government being undeniably a dark spot on human history).

    It is surprising that the GL would remove Spinoza or Paine from Halcyon's library. Personally, they are both on my shelf. Although it does not sound like the members were forbidden to read them, were they?

    "Universal Brotherhood or Division amongst supposed Brothers?"

    That's exactly correct. Universal brotherhood. Not Universal grey jumpsuits. Diversity, NOT sameness. Individuals, NOT blind, unthinking, happy clones.

  9. "Both the Grand Orients of France and the United States actively support the separation of church and state."

    So too, does the Scottish Rite (from a Scottish Rite application):

    "I believe in the inculcation of patriotism, respect for law and order, and undying loyalty to the principals of civil and religious liberty, the entire separation of church and state as set forth in the Constitution of the United States of America. Wholeheartedly believing in the forgoing, I respectively petition to receive the 4th thru the 32nd degrees."

  10. Francois states:"It is surprising that the GL would remove Spinoza or Paine from Halcyon's library. Personally, they are both on my shelf. Although it does not sound like the members were forbidden to read them, were they?"

    They demanded they be removed from our website as educational material for members.
    Not mandatory readings, just suggested readings for enlightenment to get a better idea of the era whence masonry was spawned..

    And yes, it was an edict, not a code violation, so we rejected that edict.

  11. Holy crap, 2bowl-are you actually gonna give us real information? Keep it comin' son-inquiring minds want to know! For my interpretation, I gave an oath to follow ALL of the laws and rules and regulations. If the Master's edict fell under this, then it is not worth breaking my oath over. I'd just put it on my own website (I think Spinoza's there, at least). I doubt GL would have any say about your personal website. It does have the right to say how they are represented, as do the individual brethren. It's about being able to keep your word. If you can't, you can't be a brother at all.

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  13. Here is what is printed in one of your racist Valley's information booklets.

    "Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is avowed foe of bigotry, intolerance, oppression, political and clerical fascism."

    What a joke! Black men are held in total disdain in this valley and you come across as pure as the driven snow.

  14. I do not like having to be a traffic cop, but it's got to be done. The Burning Taper is not a litterbox for your continual shit-throwing melees.

    This is a notice inspired by Masonic Avenger's latest post (now deleted), and should be read and heeded by everyone who wishes to post comments here.

    1) Outing of anyone will not be tolerated. If someone posting here is using a screen name, that is the name by which you should address them. Calling them by another name or disclosing who you think they are is not acceptable.

    2) Show some respect to each other, no matter what your differences. At least argue with class and style. Civility is required, ladies and gentlemen. Rhetoric is one of those seven arts and sciences you were encouraged to study and use in your Fellowcraft degree.

    3) Stay more or less on topic. This article, for example, is about religion, not racism in the Scottish Rite. If you want to talk about Masonic racism, I'm sure there are a dozen posts somewhere on The Taper where this conversation is already being played out.

    If you can't follow these simple rules, then I ask you to just not say anything. Posts that ignore these requests will be deleted.

    — W.S.

  15. "Here is what is printed in one of your racist Valley's information booklets."

    Not my valley. Not my group. I don't even belong to SR.

    They fact cannot be changed that the SR is against religion and government being joined (at least according to their documentation). It was relevant to the topic.

  16. "It's about being able to keep your word. If you can't, you can't be a brother at all." Francois


    Yep, that's the American Masonic motto.

    If you can't speak the truth because of an GL edict (Ohio) then all of Freemasonry is a lie.

    Halcyon realized that young men were coming to Freemasonry in search of the truth. They provided lots of education from many varied points of view to help them find at least something of value.

    When the Grand Master handed over an edict that rendered Freemasonry a lie they choose to remain true to the Craft and what they were supposed to be doing.

    As Masons we have an obligation to the Craft, but our obligations to God and our fellow man outweigh all that we owe to Freemasonry.

    You know that Francois. Don't play games.

  17. There was no lie in the information offered. You know that. Don't play games, Howard. Here is the statement:

    They demanded they be removed from our website as educational material for members.
    Not mandatory readings, just suggested readings for enlightenment to get a better idea of the era whence masonry was spawned..

    And yes, it was an edict, not a code violation, so we rejected that edict."

    This is the EXACT statement, so where is the lie? It's not there in the information provided. Don't play games.

  18. Of course, if you have more information to share that makes it a lie, please provide it. Clearly, the post did not indicate any lie or a stop measure to keep a brother from posting it on a personal website or read, talk about the books in or out of lodge, or own it in his own collection and lend it to other brethren Really, I would be intrigued to see how this was a 'lie' or violated someone's rights. The website represents the lodge itself and by proxy the GL it operates under. Enlighten us, but it will need to be more light than herein provided.

  19. Francois,

    I came to Freemasonry is search of Light. I suspect the same may be true of you.

    The promise of Freemasonry is more Light. If, by edict, a Grand Master turns off the Light then he turn Freemasonry into a lie. In other words we promise light but provide only darkness. Do you see?

    Instead of BBQ and fish fries Halcyon began providing more Light and their membership started rising. Their web site is a testament to the many good things they accomplished.

    While other lodges were selling their buildings and merging, Halcyon was restoring their building and growing.

    Obviously they were doing something right because they broke the trend of Masonic decline. Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge of Ohio didn't have the leadership capabilities to utilize that information to the benefit of the Craft.

    Halcyon is a major success story for American Freemasonry. They have lighted the way to how to achieve future growth while at the same time restoring meaning and value to the Craft.

  20. François-Marie Arouet said...
    "So too, does the Scottish Rite..."

    There is a distinct difference between saying something and doing something. In fact, my experience has been much the opposite. I was verbally accosted by the Secretary of my Valley when he found out I was not a Christian. He kept asking me why I did not believe in Jesus as my personal savior. This is not proper behavior for someone in his position and clearly defined the mind-set of the SR and its membership for me. I demitted from SR shortly thereafter.

    Along the same lines, I feel that what the "Masonic Avenger" was trying to say was that the same type of double-speak is occuring with their attitude toward race. Although I can enumerate the many cases of racism that I have witnessed, this is not the place to do so.

    I am always open to dialogue with Brothers that understand the importance of such matters as you clearly appear to be.

    Concerning the Halcyon Brothers and their situation, I do not blame them for keeping the information secret. Why should they tell anything to a group of people that has called them thieves and worse without ever hearing both sides? I know that I would not tell anything to a group that summarily casts judgement without facts. Just think what fanciful stories they would come up with if they had all the facts. It is a little too reminiscent of religious groups hunting those that do not believe the same as themselves. Do not read into this, I am by no means casting a broad net upon all Freemasons. There are many Brothers that truly would like to find a good resolution to the ills that led to this, but they are outnumbered by the ones that are quick to judge and condemn others.


  21. "Why should they tell anything to a group of people that has called them thieves and worse without ever hearing both sides?"

    Absolutely. Why should they demand for the regular lodges to be above-board when they are not? They've asked us in the past to condemn GL officers based on very little information.

    My experience with Halcyon began early in their history. I might have been abrasive or conceived as such, but the response of the GOUSA member to me was 'you make me sick'. Which showed me early on that they were no better than what they proposed we were. We, who sat in our lodges, and did great things. Those lodges and brethren we loved dearly suddenly were all 'liars and thieves' The experience with Halcyon and GOUSA members has been consistent, with the exception of Brother Brandt.

    Before the arrival of Halcyon and GOUSA, admittedly I knew little. I saw some postings from Mr. Peace on a website about Halcyon lodge, and was intrigued. After the treatment I've received, I've lost all my respect for Mr. Peace and any possibility that I will ever join a GOUSA lodge. I have no use for egotists that start an organization but hide behind a name to act like a fifth grader.

    I know it is right to say that I have acted as such, and for this I feel little remorse. I am doing an experiment based on a statement made by Brother Dunn about people who hide behind fake IDs. Dunn's absolutely right-people who hide behind fake id's can say whatever they want. Let JP in his identity know that it was his actions, and let those allied with GOUSA who hide behind fake ids know it was there words, that lost a potential brother by proving that they were not brothers at all. You shouldn't judge how you should act based on how I act.

    I spoke to Mr. Peace and thought he was a great Mason. Today, I do not have that sentiment at all. Only through his words and actions did this come about. No one else's. If the GL system goes away (I doubt it) I will not be joining the GOUSA or the GO of France.

    I'm more intrigued by Annie Besant's system anyway, but I don't have to belong to any system to be a Mason. I wish I'd been able to write an article here to express my journey talking to the members of the GOUSA. There's quite a journey I've made.

    I have spoken for years on the internet with brothers and sisters from several other paths and have NEVER received the treatment I've gotten from the GOUSA and from Jeff Peace in an assumed identity. Certainly, I've dished it out. I'm not pretending to be better-I only wish they would stop saying they are better and start showing it.

    Wish we could have been friends, Jeff, but it just doesn't seem destined that way. I understand your anger and your choice of another path. GOUSA members, please strive to live up to what you profess. I know I will.

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  23. What a total pile of crap "Francois".

    You come out here and openly attack everyone from behind an alias. You attempt to twist freedom of conscience into implying moral chaos and social anarchy. Then imply that Grand Orient member are cat killers.

    Sorry, I don't buy it for one minute.

    If you were seeking the truth you would have asked questions and been objective in your replies. Twisting people's words to mean things they obviously don't and then expecting them to treat you with kindness is insane.

    Trickery and skulduggery are not the signs of a man seeking the truth or a sincere Freemason and brother.

    You came out here hiding behind an alias looking for a fight and you got one. It's like walking into a bar and challenging every man in the room and then expecting a warm fraternal greeting.

    Your confession of innocence is pure BS. You came out here to paint the GOUSA as bad guys, while in fact you proved yourself to be an ass.

    Theron Dunn will tell you that I'm a no BS kind of guy. You toss out some bunch of crap and I'll call your cards on it every time.

    I don't care if you like me or the GOUSA. Knowing what I know about you I would be the first Black Cube a guy like you. We're looking for straight-forward honest people who want to work together as a team to build a more honorable institution devoid of the corruption, injustices and malice within the present American Fraternity. You wouldn't fit in.

  24. Back to the original article:

    Quotation from The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert Gallatin Mackey:,

    "But, besides, Freemasonry is, in all its forms, thoroughly tinctured with a true devotional spirit. We open and close our Lodges with prayer; we invoke the blessing of the Most High upon all our labors; we demand of our neophytes a profession of trusting belief in the existence and the superintending care of God; and we teach them to bow with humility and reverence at His awful name, while His Holy Law is widely open upon our altars. Freemasonry is thus identified with religion; and although a man be eminently religious without being a Freemason, it is impossible that a Freemason can be "true and trusty" to his Order unless he is a respecter of religion and an observer of religious principle."

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  26. I don't give a, well, whatever, about holiday laws. I think every day should be a holiday and everyone should be paid double-time-and-a-half if they choose to work. This is about the corporations not wanting to give people time off and pay them fairly-nothing else.

    Sure, take away the name if you want. Like these holidays are religious for most people anyway. Do NOT take away people's time off. The corporations want wage-slaves, and all this political BS is a way to increase their power.

  27. "There is a distinct difference between saying something and doing something. In fact, my experience has been much the opposite. I was verbally accosted by the Secretary of my Valley when he found out I was not a Christian. He kept asking me why I did not believe in Jesus as my personal savior. This is not proper behavior for someone in his position and clearly defined the mind-set of the SR and its membership for me."

    I agree wholeheartedly. I am unaware of anything of this sort happening here. Of course, anybody can SAY they are against something and not do anything about it. There's a lot of people running around saying stuff, but they're still full of bs. Although it is not likely, it is *possible* that someone can support the separation of church and state and react as this individual did to you.


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