Not in the traditional sense. Masonic principles do however teach the value of relief or charity, and Freemasons donate thousands of hours of volunteer time and more than $2 million PER DAY, of which more than 70 percent goes to assist the general public.
Among the Masons' good works are the Shriners Hospitals for Children with two dozen sites throughout North America; well over 200 Scottish Rite Learning Centers helping children with dyslexia, speech and hearing disorders; the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, which funds treatment and surgery for children and adults with vision disorders; and the Grottoes of North American Humanitarian Foundation, which provides dental care for special needs children.
There are numerous other worthy causes and groups that local Lodges contribute to and support in their communities, either independently or in conjunction with the Grand Lodge, such as the Illinois Child Identification Program (IL CHIP) which creates identification kits to help parents recover a lost or missing child. In addition, Masons are, collectively, one of the largest groups of blood donors in the State of Illinois.

Masonry is definitely not a religion, and is one of the few forums where men of every religion can come together. And although Lodges open and close with a prayer, and Masonry teaches morality, it is neither a church nor a religious body, and a member's religious beliefs are his own affair. Masonry is open to all men who believe in a Supreme Being; because of the necessity to take oaths, no atheist can become a Mason.

Freemasonry is, by definition, a fraternity that aims to promote Brotherly Love and Friendship among its members. It is a worldwide organization that draws together men from every country, race, religion, ethnicity, opinion, and background, and helps cultivate and promote better relationships and bonds of friendships among them.
Freemasonry doesn't focus on Friendship and Brotherly Love because it believes that only relations between men are important, or that relations between men and women are unimportant, but because hope for peace and harmony in the world is improved when men can put aside their differences and come together as friends.
Masons also appreciate and value relations with women. We sponsor and participate in Masonic related organizations such as the Order of Eastern Star, whose members include women, as well as two youth organizations: the International Order of Job's Daughters and the International Order of the Rainbow For Girls.

No, although many presidents have been Masons throughout history - from George Washington to Gerald Ford. Many of the early leaders of the Revolution were Masons, including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. The list of prominent men who became Masons before going on to greatness is extensive and underscores the strong civic commitment that many members of the Fraternity exemplify even today.

Freemasonry has always welcomed members of any faith, including Catholics. Today, there are many, many Catholics - as well as Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and members of almost every other faith, who are proud to be Masons.

The nature of Masonic teachings and initiation is deeply rooted in the oral tradition. In most Lodges around the world, these rituals are never written out - but are passed on "mouth to ear," from one Masonic generation to the next. What may be thought to be codebooks are actually Masonic "ciphers." These ciphers are not in "code" at all, but provide merely hints of the spoken word to refresh one's memory. A Masonic cipher cannot be "broken" as there is no code to break.

Yes, all Shriners are Masons. Before a man can join the Shrine, he must first receive three "degrees" in his "Blue Lodge," or Home Lodge. After that any Mason can move on to one or more of the appendant bodies, including the Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Shrine. Masons may also affiliate with other Lodges. It should be noted that although these other Masonic bodies allow members to pursue advanced degrees and get more Masonic education, there is no "higher" degree than the 3rd, which is received in the Blue Lodge.

Masonry accepts men from every race, color, creed, nationality, and culture, and there are many Freemasons of African-American decent. In addition, Prince Hall Masonry, formed by Prince Hall, an African-American Freemason who received a charter for a Lodge in 1775, has maintained active Lodges for the African-American community throughout America for over 200 years.

The nature of Masonic ritual is both complex and beautiful. "Ritual" is actually a recitation of certain tenets and truths that have been passed down for generations - mostly from mouth to ear. This "ritual" takes the form of lectures and theatrical performances in the Lodge, and is used to teach new Masons the value of truth and the necessity of helping those in need.
Not everyone will want to learn the ancient ritual as it takes a great deal of time and study effort, but those Masons who chose to learn it are rewarded with the satisfaction of upholding a powerful tradition and helping their fellow Brothers further their Masonic understanding.

Grand Lodges were formed - first in England and Ireland, and later in America - to help standardize ritual, traditions, and customs among various Lodges. The first Grand Lodge in America was formed in Massachusetts in 1733. Today there is a Grand Lodge in every state - and virtually every country in the world. There is no "central" Grand Lodge, though Grand Lodges also meet to help facilitate unity and uphold tradition within the Craft.
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