Every so often, I hear the same remark about Masonry, “Isn’t that some kind of weird religion?” No, of course it’s not. “But don’t they have their own Bible?” Well, yes, kinda.
I’m not exactly sure where people get the idea that Freemasonry is a religion. I think that it tends to be one of the rumors that spread around by people who have no idea what they are talking about, and may, or may not fear what is actually going on in those Lodge rooms.
So, let’s start with that. Freemasonry is not, nor will it ever be, a religion. In fact, it is very uncommon to have every member of a Lodge be of the same religion. The only requirement, for the majority of Lodges out there, is that the candidate believes in a higher power. Usually, that’s it. There’s no question as to who or what they think that higher power is, or how they choose to worship it, or not. Occasionally some Lodges will delve a bit deeper into these kinds of questions, but they tend to be vague and be wide open for interpretation. So, this means that a Christian, a Muslim, and a Buddhist could all be Freemasons, and even all be members of the same Lodge. Do you think you’re going to get people with that large of a variance of a belief to agree on religion? Good luck. In fact, religion, along with politics, is a topic of conversation in Lodge that is widely discouraged.
Right, so, Freemasonry is not a religion. But what about this Masonic Bible I keep hearing so much about? The Masonic Bible does exist, but not like you think. The Masonic Bible tends to be one of those things that conspiracy theorists say that you don’t get to actually know about until you’re a super secret 99th degree level Master Mason. Well, I hope one of those conspiracy theorists is reading this right now, because I am going to share with you never before seen pictures of a Masonic Bible.
Gasp! The horror, the horror, the…wait a second, isn’t that just a King James Version of the Bible? Yes, yes it is. Think of a Masonic Bible to be akin to a family Bible, or a study Bible. It has a different cover, some different stuff in the beginning, but after that, its just the same Bible you know and (may) love.
You see, when a Masonic candidate takes his oath, he swears on the Bible (usually, see below for more). In some Lodges, he may swear on the small, personal Bible for all three of his degrees, or in others, he may swear on the Lodge Bible for the first two, and then the small one for the Master Mason degree.
Alright, let’s talk about all that extra stuff. This is T’s Bible, and as you can see, it is a bit worse for wear. On the cover and spine, we see the square and compass, makes sense. In the first couple of pages, there’s usually some blank space and a lot of lines, as well as some sort of presentation page. This area is for inscription from friends and family, as well as noting when the Mason went through each of the degrees. Traditionally, after the third degree is finished, everyone else present signs the Bible, which is then presented to the candidate. The rest of it, as you can see, is the kind of stuff you could find on Wikipedia, though if anyone is interested in reading all of this part, I’d be happy to upload it. After that, it’s the Bible, same beginning, same middle, same end.
OES, as you can see, does more or less the same thing, only to a bit of a less degree. Only the cover is the major change you see, otherwise it’s a Bible that one may receive after confirmation. The different ribbons stuck in it is the way it was presented to me, and marks the passages from which the five heroines that make up the five OES degrees come from.
So, what if you’re not Christian? What if you’re a Jew, or Muslim, or anything else? Well, fear not, for Freemasonry has it covered. You may swear your oath on any Holy Book of your choosing. How I wish I’d known that when I joined! Unfortunately, it’s not something readily advertised, and in many cases, you may have to supply your own. In areas/Lodges where a religion other than Christianity is dominant, they may have a different holy book as “default”, or may even present a different holy book to the new member.
If you are ever able to make your way to the House of the Temple in Washington D.C., which is the headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite; and you went into the Lodge room, this is what you would see on their altar.
That’s the Holy Bible, the Jewish Tanakh, the Muslum Qu’ran, and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. And people try to say Freemasonry is a Christian organization!
As you can see, Freemasonry highly values the diversity of its members. Sometimes Lodge members may get this idea a bit muddled, but this picture illustrates it best. Do not be fearful of joining a Masonic body if you are not a Christian (although some of the auxiliary groups you may not be eligible), and do not be fearful of claims of a Masonic Bible, as it is simply, the Bible.
Also, if you’d like a virtual tour of the House of the Temple (which I highly recommend, that place is *gorgeous*!) check out this page.