Having been a mason since 1980, I was very interested in this thread, and it was most unexpectedly that I found this question on the Forum,..... I can only say that I have never heard any religious controversy in any lodge that I have attended either here or abroad - indeed the discussion of any topic related to Relilgion or Politics is strictly forbidden in all Lodges to avoid any possibilities of conflict between members. On the contrary, Lodges accept all colours, races and religions as equals - in my own town's lodges, we have Sikhs, Muslims, Unitarians, Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Zoroastrians, Jews and Hindus - and all attend Lodges together.
All races and creeds are treated with equal favour - because the national religion here in Anglican, and Anglican Bible is present during lodge ceremonies, but we also display the Gitas, the Gathas, the Veda, the Torah and the Koran, each of which is the godly revelation accepted by millions of men. Masons ceremonies are in no way religious or even quasi-religious, if you accept that the short prayers that are used can be seen as valid in common with all religions that respect a superior entity, and that in that commonality we can all worship god within our own creeds and within our hearts.
Over the last 30 years, and as recently as last week, I have often been present at ceremonies where priests, ministers, rabbis and even bishops of many branches of Christianity have participated in the ceremonies - not as sectarian holy men, but as equal secular participating freemasons repeating the ceremonies that try to teach a commonailty of ethics to all who are initiated into the brothehood.. I have actually never been at a meeting where an Muslim Imam was present, nor a Hindu Brahman for that matter, but if they wanted to join, they would be welcomed as equals with all other people.
To grasp the fundamental objections to Freemasonry and to check their modern validity, perhaps we should briefly review the history of the craft.
In the Middle Ages, stonemasons building the great cathedrals of Europe moved from place to place to follow their occupation. To protect their skills and to recognize fellow masons, they devised system of signs and passwords - a sort of union card - and their worksheds were called lodges.
With the decline of cathedral building, some lodges admitted non-working or honorary masons - why they did this is unclear. Over time, honorary Masons outnumbered working masons. The tools, symbols, signs, grips and passwords of the masons created what we know as speculative Freemasonry, which usually defines itself as "a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." PECULIAR in old English means "unique" not peculiar! ALLEGORY means in story-form, and in Lodges, the ceremonies take the form of "plays" and stories that teach particular ethical principles. SYMBOLS are used to remind masons of points and principles of ethics.
Medieval masons were premoninantly Catholics, like most of Europe. But under the influence of deism, all traces of specific religion were excised from speculative Freemasonry. A Mason is obliged to obey the moral law; and to respect all people as equals regardless of wealth or rank. If asked about their personal religion, most masons would tell you the truth. Religion is NOT freemasonry and freemasonry is NOT a religion.
Anyway, as new member you might want to tell me to "go away", but this note is based on my personal experience of the organisation as a caring fraternity of men aged 21 to 100 or more, and many women too. The organisation is a major charitable benefactor to masons and non-masons alike, donating millions of pounds every year to support those less fortunate then themselves. Until the advent of the UK National Lottery, British Freeasons were said to be the single greatest contributors to UK charities supporting the poor and needy.
I am sorry if this note breaks the rules, or contradicts heart-felt beliefs in hearts hardened aginst Freemasonry, but no mason would argue about religious beliefs, no mason would ever kill or maim for masonic principles, no mason would ever refuse to help another human being - the same cannot be said for members of many actual Religions.