Reposted with author's permission. (Revised 10-3-09, 3:55 PM, PDT)
Freemasonry has been the victim of slander and even persecution at times during the last sixteen centuries. Masons were persecuted by the early medieval Roman Catholic Church, and "Christian" slander and persecution of Freemasons has continued even to this day.
That is why Freemasonry has a tradition of secrecy. That originally became necessary after the Roman Emperor Constantine "converted" to Christianity and adopted it as the official religion of his military empire during the fourth century. His original Roman Catholic Church labeled many things as "pagan" or "heretical," or worse, and oppression and persecution of everyone who did not swear obedience to the church's authority began.
"The Church" back then was not like today's Catholic Church. Back then it even went so far as to forbid Greek art and mythology, and all other religions and spiritual teachings were forbidden and condemned. It was a tyrannical theocracy, based on a man-made doctrine of preeminence and superiority reflected in the Nicene Creed and established as canon law.
It established the "Divine Right" of Popes, and then of "Christian Kings." It led to a long series of official church actions against "heretics" generally known as the "Inquisition." Furthermore, it did not stop with the Protestant Reformation. Many Christian groups did bring about needed reforms, and most Christians were good then, just as most are now. But, some groups were still theocratic, and their controling efforts continued, sporadically, and that was even blatantly demonstrated in America or "New England" during the notorious "witch-hunts." And it persisted, sometimes openly, and sometimes behind the scenes.
That's why Benjamin Franklin in an essay on "Toleration" stated: "If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. [The Puritans] found it wrong in the Bishops [of the Church of England], but fell into the same practice themselves in New England [in America]."
You see, misguided, theocratic "Christians" even slandered the founders of the United States of America in the late 1700s, because most of the founding fathers were Deists, and many were Freemasons. They wanted to establish freedom of religion, and freedom from religious bigotry and theocratic imposition. But misguided, right-wing theocratic Christians didn't like that. In fact, they fought against it.
That is why Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."
More to the point, Jefferson also wrote: "The returning good sense of our country threatens the clergy and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me, and enough too in their opinion, and this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."
Even more important, Jefferson also said: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
James Madison wrote: "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." And Madison also wrote: "Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by [Christian] Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history."
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams and others, including Abraham Lincoln, felt the same way. (See the article-page on Little Known American History.) But, unfortunately, with respect to the need for religious pluralism and equality, the founding fathers' influence did not last for long. Aggressive, theocratic Christians gradually negated that pluralistic influence, and there have been times when they have become politically aggressive, as they are now and have been for the last 30 years.
A very notable time was in the mid-1930s. In Germany, Adolf Hitler, who claimed he was a Christian in speeches and in his book Mein Kampf, got his Nazi thugs to persecute and even murder Freemasons (along with Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and many other groups).
In the 1930s misguided Christians also asserted themselves in America.In reaction to the success of the good liberal progressives, there was a revival of right-wing political activism driven by conservative, materialistic, dogmatic Christian sects. They sought to establish more firm "Christian" control in the United States, and they founded a so-called "Legion of Decency" designed to do that. It consisted of right-wing conservative Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists, conservative Catholics, and others --- pretty much the same denominations, sects and factions that even today make up the "Christian Right" and what they call a "Moral Majority" or "Christian Coalition." They think they are the true Christians, but they ironically act in opposition to true Christians, because true Christians actually care for and/or advocate for the majority, and especially the poor and the least of our brethren, just as Deists and Freemasons do.
The latest rise of slander against Freemasonry began in the 1970s with the rise of the modern "Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian Right," because many of its leaders have made many misleading and even false claims about what Freemasonry is, and about what Masons are, and what they do. In fact, it has become what might be called a New Inquisition, only this time it's on "evangelical" television shows and Internet sites, poisoning the minds of the misguided blind flocks on the "Christian Right" and leading them to think they are superior and "holier than thou." And in some ways they remind me of the misguided, proud, militant Jewish Zionists and Muslim Jihadist extremists who think the same thing!
Now, since Freemasonry has been maligned by the American Christian Right, and especially since Dan Brown's newest book "The Lost Symbol" and the movie by the same name feature Freemasonry as an important part of the story, it has become even more important that some important facts about Freemasonry be told and the real truth revealed.