June 26, 2006 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in joining a fraternal organization of some sort or another. However, there's...

The problem is I'm an atheist and the Masons and a lot of other fraternal organizations have the requirement that a member have a belief in a higher power of one sort or another. So tell me, O great hive-mind, are there any groovy secret societies, fraternal organizations or lodges that will accept me?

*Organizations need not be strictly fraternal.
*Organizations need not be atheist-only.
*Secret hand-shakes a plus.
posted by lekvar to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I was just wondering this myself today, but I wouldn't have come up with such wonderful tags.
posted by sohcahtoa at 6:34 PM on June 26, 2006

I could be wrong, but I think you can be an atheist and still join a Kiwanis club.

Same with Lions Club International (who forbid talking about religion or politics at meetings) and, I think, the Jaycees.

I, for one, am most interested in the Nakatamo Cult.

But I don't know whether they have secret handshakes.
posted by brina at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2006

The Odd Fellows' higher power requirement is pretty nebulous, and they're a very interesting and quirky fraternal organization with a fair amount of coverage in the US. I used to run an Odd Fellows Hall in Seattle and the other organizations that used the place a lot were either insurance/avocation based [Loyal Order of the Golden North, Woodmen, the local Grange organization] or go-go America Groups [Red Men] or somewhat more mystic groups whose names I can't remember.

Your best bet is to look around for what's in your area, unless you're really willing to travel. Since many of these groups have fairly regular meetings weekly or monthly. You might want to dig around a bit here or here or check the phone book to see what's in your area.
posted by jessamyn at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2006

The Odd Fellows also have the caveat against talking religion or politics, fwiw.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2006

A Greek-letter society sounds like a good option -- most of them have pre-Christian symbols and culture as their ritual root, so there wouldn't be all the God business. The social clubs that organize around Mardi Gras (called krewes) also have a lot of the mysticism but without too much religious aspect; researching those might lead you to similar outfits if you aren't on the Gulf Coast.

Problem with the business/networking oriented societies (Rotary, JCI) and the community service groups (Kiwanis, et al) is that there won't be that secret fraternal mythos going on. You can't run around in robes chanting and doing secret handshakes at the local firemen's fundraiser or school carnival.

Clearly, you need to find a chapter of the Stonecutters.
posted by pineapple at 6:49 PM on June 26, 2006

College fraternal societies - I'm of two minds - it really depends on whether you're going to be a "frat boy" or "a member of a national fraternity."

On the gripping hand, you can always start your own. I'm an (honourary) founder of a "subversive underground whiskey club" and I have my name on a "super secret" "blacklist" that's still having names being added to it, 6 years after I've left college. Or so I've been told.
posted by porpoise at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2006

Well, I am a Mason and I totally get where you are coming from, but it's too bad that you can't fudge a little on the "supreme being" idea (maybe "nothingness" or "Nietzsche" is your "supreme idea"?) because there is some truly Baphomet-meets-Temple-of-Doom stuff in the exmplefied Scottish Rite degrees (I'm thinking of the 30th and 31st degrees particularly). Alesteir Crowley would be proud. Speaking of which, you can probably join OTO or some local Rosicrucian spinoff (lots of these are only correspondence classes these days). Shriners (all of which are Masons, I know I know) also have a side group called the Turtles, which is strictly a drinking fraternity (but with great titles like "Grand Snapper" and "His Shellness"). If you can somehow get into the Bohemian Club, it looks like a scorching good time.
posted by mattbucher at 7:39 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

The Odd Fellows say "A man or woman of good character, who ... believes in a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe, is eligible for membership." It's strange that all these societies have this sort of requirement.
posted by exogenous at 7:56 PM on June 26, 2006

Do college fraternities do alumni initiation? I know sororities do, but am not sure about the male organizations.

I do, however, know that several years ago a frat on campus initiated a 60+ year old who happened to be taking classes at the time, thereby making him a 'collegian.'

On preview: The fine people at could probably answer a lot of your questions.
posted by Amanda B at 9:36 PM on June 26, 2006

How about the Rotary? Doesn't appear to have any religious requirement. It does look like it might be a little stuffy-old-manish ("hold — or be retired from — a professional, proprietary, executive, or managerial position;"), but so does everything else so far. Except for the subversive underground whiskey club. Wonder what it takes to start a chapter...
posted by jaysus chris at 10:38 PM on June 26, 2006

In my masonic district, you can fudge the higher power quite a bit.... you aren't going to be pressed for any details on what that higher power is (physics?)... as long as you can say yes. I know quite a few masons who really struggle with that question.

Masonic lodges and districts can vary quite a bit culturally and it may just be a matter of finding one that is a good fit. All of them are going to adhere to certain values and principles and ways of doing things, but there is room to interpret... Masonic lodges that are functioning well rotate officers annually and can change quite a bit year to year.

For example, there is kind of a difference between English-style lodges and American style lodges.... Most American style lodges are dry and forbid drinking altogether, while English lodges (originally held in pubs) and have formal and traditional toasts. In Canada you can find both schools of thought, and probably the US too. This goes for a bunch of issues, I know of one lodge that is mostly cops and another that is mostly lawyers.

If you like masonry, it might just be a matter of finding a lodge that is a good fit. Look up the Grand Lodge of your province or state (it will be in the phone book under Grand Lodge of "State/Province" and talk to an official called the "Grand Secretary"... they are pretty much the keepers of news and protocol and may be able to help you find a masonic lodge that is a good fit. The best way is to talk to masons.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:24 PM on June 26, 2006

Church of the Subgenius perhaps?
posted by JonnyRotten at 2:07 AM on June 27, 2006

Professional fraternities (list) are fraternities typically open to membership to those in a specific (though usually broad) field. You get the secret rituals, plus the bonus of a mutual interest, without all the "frat boy" mentality--in fact, most if not all are open to both men and women. Although the norm is for people to join these when they are in college, I believe that is not strictly a requirement for most of them (although you may have to find a chapter at a nearby college or university willing to initiate you). As far as I know there are no religious requirements.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:51 AM on June 27, 2006

Great stuff everyone, thanks for your replies. For the masons who've suggested bending the admissions rules - do you really think that would fly? I thought about professing belief in the Unified Field Theory but had doubts about how well that would be accepted. If it comes down to it I'd prefer to be as honest and up front about this as possible.
posted by lekvar at 2:00 PM on June 27, 2006

If it comes down to it I'd prefer to be as honest and up front about this as possible.

Well if you come out and say "I am an atheist and won't tolerate any mention of a supreme being" then you likely won't be accepted for membership. What I propose you do is check "yes" on the form where it asks you if you believe in a higher power. They won't sit you down and grill you about it if you check that box. Most lodges do have some kind of interview process where the get to know you before they vote on your membership, but unless you come right out and say "I don't believe in God," it isn't going to be an issue. There is one part of the initiation that asks you yes or no if you believe in a supreme being and at this point you'd have to be thinking in your head "Unified Field Theory." And you'd have to be tolerant of there likely being a bible on an altar inside the lodge room (unless you are in a Jewish or Muslim lodge), but you sound like a pretty tolerant person to begin with. Your conception of what you regard as supreme is up to your own interpretation and Masonry will not ask you to define that.

In the Order of DeMolay, this belief in a higher power is benignly referred to as "Reverence for Sacred Things," and that's how I like to think about it. Even atheists hold some things sacred and revere them. This requirement for a belief in a supreme being is a vestige of 18th Century Masonry in Europe, but even then there were enlightened thinkers who were agnostic at best. And you should know that talk of religion and politics is forbidden inside the lodge.

Perhaps you should start a secret society for atheists.
posted by mattbucher at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2006

If you're in California, you might consider E Clampus Vitus.
posted by Acetylene at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2006

« Older 401(k) woes, big time   |   America's Mexico? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.