Atheist and Agnostic
Originally Published in Carl H. Claudy's Old Tiler Talks - 1925
"I have had a shock!" announced the New Brother,
sitting beside the Old Tiler.
"Shall I send for a doctor?" asked the Old Tiler.
"No, a minister," countered the New Brother. "I just
met Smithkins in the lodge. He's a member and I
never knew it."
"If you like Smithkins, that must have been a pleasant
shock," answered the Old Tiler.
"Oh, I like him all right. But it was unpleasant to find
him a member of the lodge. Smithkins is an atheist!
He can't be a real Mason."
"Oh! So Smithkins is an atheist. Was he an atheist
when he signed his application?"
"Of course he was! He's always been one!"
"Then your course is clear. You should prefer charges
against him for un-Masonic conduct and perjury, and
have him thrown out of the fraternity."
"But- but why should I do it? Smithkins never did me
"Oh, yes, he did! If an atheist lied to gain admittance
to the Masonic fraternity, he injured Masonry and
injured all Masons, and you are a Mason. So he
"But, why must I do it? You do it! You know so much
more about such things than I do!" answered the New
"Oh, thank you!" smiled the Old Tiler. "But I know
nothing about Smithkins being an atheist. I never met
an atheist. I don't know what one looks like. And if
Smithkins is an atheist, then an atheist looks and acts
just like a theist. Where are his horns and his tail?"
"Oh, don't make fun! This is serious! How can we
allow an atheist to continue in membership of our
"I don't think we can!" comforted the Old Tiler. "But
how can you prove Smithkins to be an atheist? He
must have signed his statement that he believed in
God when he joined the lodge. Atheism is a matter of
belief or non-belief; it isn't a thing you can prove if he
chooses to deny it."
"I have heard him say he doesn't believe in the
divinity of Christ!"
"Oh! Is that what made you call him an atheist? Many
thousand Masons don't believe in the divinity of
Christ; some are in this lodge. Jews do not; the
Chinese do not; Mohammedans do not, but that
doesn't mean they don't believe in God."
"But I have heard him say he doesn't believe in the
God of the church."
"There is a conception of God in several churches in
which I don't believe, either!" retorted the Old Tiler.
"The God in whom I put my trust is not a vengeful
God, swayed by passion and prejudice. The God in
whom many good people believe is a terrible God,
who gets angry and is revengeful and plans horrible
torments for those who do not please Him. Because I
don't put my faith in that particular idea of God doesn't
mean I don't believe in God. And the people who
believe in the Deity as pictured by Calvin and Luther
and the Puritans may think my conception of Deity is
all wrong, but doesn't make them call me an atheist.
"The atheist is a curiosity. The very fact that a man
says, 'I don't believe in God,' shows that he does.
Where does he get his conception of the God he
denies? The only real atheist is the man who has
never heard of God."
"Maybe Smithkins isn't an atheist, but he is an
agnostic. He doesn't know what he believes!"
defended the New Brother.
"That is different!" smiled the Old Tiler. "The agnostic
is a mentally lazy person without enough energy to
formulate a conception of Deity. The agnostic isn't
satisfied with the God of Moses, or the God of Calvin,
or the God of Luther, or the God of the Jews, or the
God of Jesus Christ. He wants his own little God,
made according to a formula which suits his kind of
ego. But when he tries to make such a god he runs
into so many contradiction that he gives it up and
solves the problem by saying, 'I don't know what I
believe!' Because he is then in a class by himself he
gradually evolves a queer sort of pride in the
negation; he is 'different' from his fellows, and
therefore, 'superior.' But it's just a pose; let his child
be desperately ill or he be in danger of drowning, and
you'll hear him... yes, and the 'atheist,' too... cry to
God for help.
"Luckily for poor impotent humanity the Supreme
Architect is a merciful God who hears the cries of His
children in distress whether they are simple men you
know and like, or strange-minded men like Smithkins,
who distress us with their lack of understanding."
"Then you do not think Smithkins is a menace to the
lodge because he is an... because he believes...
differently from you and me?"
"I do not!" smiled the Old Tiler. "I know Smithkins
pretty well. He doesn't lie so he must have some
belief, or he wouldn't be a Mason. It doesn't concern
us, or the lodge, or Masonry, what his belief is, so it is
sincere. It takes all sorts of people to make a world,
and if we all thought alike..."
"Why, then," interrupted the New Brother, "there
would be no use for Old Tilers and their talks to the
"That would be terrible, wouldn't it?" agreed the Old
Tiler, as he rose to answer knocks from within.