My tab contentsAs regards the United States:
There is no doubt that the population of Masons is aging. There was a huge increase in membership in almost all fraternal orders after World War II, including Freemasonry. This peaked at sometime in the late 50s. During the social turbulence and generational strains of the 60s and 70s, new membership fell off, with the result that by the 1980s, total membership was in sharp decline.
However, there are signs that membership has leveled out, or is gaining in some areas. In many lodges, there are a great number of 50-and-up members, and a number of 30-and-under members, with a gulf in between, representing where Baby Boomers would have been. Of course, we are speaking in broad generalities here-- there is no way to know the demographics of your local Lodge without asking one of its members.
The overall point is that Masonic membership, when talking on a national scale, has probably hit a stable membership base, after a huge surge and then fall in membership.
Regarding racism: Freemasonry explicitly states the equality of men, regardless of race, creed, or color. But there are some Masons who are prejudiced, and this is unfortunate, saddening, and unMasonic. However, it is not representative of Freemasonry as a whole, or representative of anything except a tiny minority of Masons. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.
"Elitism" is harder to define. If you mean that Masons are highly selective in their membership, then yes, Masons are elitists. But just criteria is used: men of good character, of good report, who believe in God. Does the majority of the population fit that criteria? If you think not, then you could say that Masons are elitists.
The idea that Freemasonry is only open to the patrician class, the landed gentry, and the wealthy is incorrect. There are Masons of all economic backgrounds. Indeed, there are Lodges which are mostly or wholly made up of blue-collar workers due to local demographics.
No. In fact, most Masons believe that to trade with a Brother Mason only because he is a Mason is un-Masonic. Even more importantly, anyone who attempts to join a Lodge solely for business reasons will not be given a petition.
Masons, however, are friends, and it is not surprising that many Masons do trade with Brothers. For one thing, they are dealing with people that are of good character and can be trusted, which is no small statement in the modern marketplace.
But Freemasonry is not a "place to network". Yes, some men do view one of the benefits of membership as an additional source of customers or partners, but few would say that is the only reason they became Masons. The work involved in the degrees alone would make this a poor investment-- better to join the Rotary Club or other business group.
No. The titles are simply colorful, stylish, and full of ancient symbolism. No Mason worships the Master of the Lodge, nor does a Senior (or Junior) Deacon engage in religious actions, as a Deacon of a church might.
Wrong. Secret societies are generally defined as organizations which are unknown to the public and whose existence is denied. The Bavarian Illuminati and the Mafia would be examples of secret societies.
Freemasonry, on the other hand, is well-known and proudly displays its existence. Masonic Temples are clearly marked as such, and many Lodges are listed in the yellow pages (usually under "Fraternal Orders"). Members often wear rings or tie-clips that identify themselves as Masons, and Masons often participate in community charity work. Finally, some Masonic functions are open to the public.
Freemasonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These are mainly modes of recognition-- the signals, grips, signs, and phrases by which Masons recognize each other. The actual degree rituals are considered secret as well, not because there is anything that would harm Freemasonry by their revelation, but rather because they are more meaningful if the candidate does not know what is going to go on during them beforehand (see question 9 of this section if that makes you nervous).
It should be pointed out that many other organizations have a similar class of secrets. College fraternities (a.k.a. "Greek letter organizations") often have small secrets known only to their members, allowing them to travel from house to house and still be known.
Freemasonry is not a religion "by the definitions most people use. Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan for salvation or path by which one reaches the after-life; a theology which attempts to describe the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may seek to communicate with God. Freemasonry does none of those things. We offer no plan of salvation. With the exception of saying that He is a loving Father who desires only good for His children, we make no effort to describe the nature of God. And while we open and close our meetings with prayer, and we teach that no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking the guidance of God, we never tell a man how he should pray or for what he should pray. Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these great questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual development and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As the Grand Lodge of England wrote in 'Freemasonry and Religion', 'Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known.' Freemasonry itself makes only a simple religious demand on a man--he must believe that he has an immortal soul and he must believe in God. No atheist can be a Mason.
"Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his choice and to be faithful to it. A good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership." (Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who was also a Mason)
Yes, not to mention the International Jewish Conspiracy, the Elders of Zion, Inver Brass, S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and the minions of Cthulhu.
Anyone who believes that Masons are the Master Puppeteers of the globe either is pulling your leg, has read too much Robert Anton Wilson, or is in need of serious psychotherapy.
Wrong. There is nothing anti-Catholic in Freemasonry, in its traditions, its rituals, or its beliefs.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The rituals (degrees) are designed to reinforce virtues that the Craft finds desirable, such as Justice, Brotherly Love, Truth, and the like. The rituals are actually quite beautiful and filled with ancient language and much symbolism. At no point, however, is the candidate asked to do anything that would embarrass or demean him, nor anything that would violate his obligations to his faith, country, or the law.
"No. The Bibles sometimes called 'Masonic Bibles' are just Bibles to which a concordance, giving the Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based, has been added. Sometimes reference material on Masonic history is included. Anyone is welcome to read one."
No. "Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a definition for the word 'temple' which is as good an explanation as any: 'a building, usually of imposing size, serving the public or an organization in some special way; as, a temple of art, a Masonic temple'".