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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

any harm!"

"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

injured you."

"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.

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