1. Is Masonry a religion?
Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion. Masonry does acknowledge the existence of God, but does not tell a person which religion he should practice or how he should practice it. That is a function of his house of worship, not his fraternity. Sometimes people confuse Masonry with a religion because we call some Masonic buildings temples. But we use the word in the same sense that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the Supreme Court a Temple of Justice. Neither Masonry nor the Supreme Court is a religion just because its members meet in a temple. Most California lodges now refer to their buildings as Masonic centers.
2. Why is Masonry so secretive?
It really isnt secretive, although it sometimes has that reputation. Masons certainly dont make a secret of the fact that we are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins, and tie clasps with Masonic emblems like the Square and Compass. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and are usually listed in the phone book. Lodge activities are not secret - events are often listed in the newspapers, especially in smaller towns. But there are two traditional categories of secrets. First are the ways in which a man can identify himself as a Mason: grips and passwords. This is the same for any fraternity. Second are Masonic ceremonies, which are private but are not secret.
3. Why does Masonry use symbols?
Everyone uses symbols every day because it allows us to communicate quickly. When you see a red light, you know what it means. When you see a circle with a line through it, you know it means no. In fact, using symbols is probably the oldest method of communication and teaching. Masons use symbols for the same reasons. Certain symbols, mostly selected from the art of architecture, stand for certain ethics and principles of the organization. The Square and Compass is the most widely known symbol of Masonry. In one way, this symbol is the trademark for the fraternity. When you see it on a building, you know that Masons meet there.