Freemasonry is perhaps the most misunderstood, yet popular, "secret society" the world has ever known. And the most visible one. Every state in the United States and almost every country in the world has a Grand Lodge of Freemasons, and each has its own Web site. Freemasons wear rings, jackets, and hats emblazoned with the square and compass on them. Their cars often have Masonic license plates and bumper stickers identifying them. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and their addresses and phone numbers are in the Yellow Pages. Some Grand Lodges have even started advertising on billboards. If the Freemasons are a secret, they need a refresher course on camouflage. Almost immediately after forming the first Grand Lodge in England in 1717, books trumpeting the secrets of the lodge began to arrive on shelves.
Masonry does have ceremonies it wants to keep private, along with methods of identification (passwords, handshakes, and others), just as corporations have information they want to keep private.
No simple, one-line definition satisfactorily describes what Freemasonry is. It is a philosophy and a system of morality and ethics — and a pretty basic one at that — but these are the main points that make Freemasonry different from any other organization: