Although Masonry is not a religion, it is an organization of religious men. Among us, belief in a Creator is universal. And yet, we live in a world that is populated with Atheists as well. Sometimes, that's even in our own families.
And yet, "By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family—the high, the low, the rich, the poor—who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other."
Should we take these words at their face value... and I think we must... they necessarily apply to the atheist as well as those who are religious.
Lately this was brought to my mind at the deathbed of a relative... the mother of my favorite cousins. A pious woman, she was on life support with no hope of recovery or improvement. I felt compelled to go visit even though I knew it was unlikely that she, in her delirium, would even recognize me... and that was the case.
Her three adult children are faced with a very difficult decision... Two of them, with faith in God, face the inevitable with calm resignation mingled with hope. The third came out of the consulting room with emotions unchecked. I thought back to the loss of my own parents, and the realization that no matter how old you are, when your parents are gone, you feel like an orphan. I realized that my cousin was anticipating that feeling. Furthermore, as an atheist, she does not have God to rely on. Deeply in pain and needing emotional comfort, the only thing she has to lean on is the people around her. She couldn't get comfort from her siblings... they were just two-to-one "against" her in the consulting room. She was very much alone.
Then I knew why I was compelled to drive the many hours to be there. I gave my cousin a hug and the words, "I know it's hard... it will be OK. We're here." This wasn't a time for proselytizing or witnessing. It was a time for human comfort. Later, over a meal, the rest of us could talk about the comfort of the Spirit among ourselves in her presence, so she could be guided, not pushed. And maybe it will work. One thing I know is that all those who come to the Lord must do so of their own free will and accord.
Another thing I know is that although we often hear the words, "but especially brother Masons" in our various charges, that does not change the fact that they are preceded by the words "all mankind". Compassion -- Charity -- Brotherly Love -- are never to be reserved, but freely given. When given freely, your store is never diminished, but increased; and that is a true miracle.