Founded: 1717, England. In this year the Grand Lodge was formed. (It must be noted that Masons typically believe that their belief system dates back to the days stone masons crafted Solomon's temple). The first Lodge in America was established in 1730 in Philadelphia.
Current Organization: Masons meet locally in lodges, which are informally connected under the jurisdiction of one of two major rites, the Scottish and York rites. There are some 3 million Masons in the United States, and as many as 5 million worldwide.
Description: Most Freemasons contend that Masonry is not a religion in the proper sense. It is primarily concerned with the establishment of morality, and the doing of good works. Belief in God (however one chooses to define Him/Her/It) and the immortality of the soul are two foundational tenets. Much of the message of masonry is couched in the language and symbolism of ancient stone masons, and the members of the lodge are sworn not to disclose the secrets of their rituals and rites.
Masons progress in their lodges by "degrees". Local lodges can confer three degrees (Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason), while the York and Scottish rite and can confer twelve and thirty degrees respectively. For minors, Masonry offers the "Order of Demolay" for young boys, and "Rainbows" for girls. One of the better known masonic groups in this country is the Shriners, renowned for their Burn Centers and other philanthropic works..
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