The bane of being of the secret society tradition is that Freemasonry is constantly subjected to fanciful illusions of those who like to tell a good tale. And there are plenty of folk who are naïve enough to believe almost anything they hear.
The fact is that there are many public images regarding Freemasonry. It all depends on who you are reading and how you are reading it. There are those who choose to see a hostility between Freemasonry and religion; yet we live in a world with a huge and growing un-churched population. Many in this group perceive Freemasonry as an institution one can trust to openly and objectively discuss the tenets of all belief systems. There are those who see separation of church and state as hostile toward religion; but there are far more who agree with Freemasonry's position regarding the necessity of teaching a society to be watchful that the zealotry of faith does not restrict personal freedoms. There are those who see Freemasons as libertines; yet there are far more who see Masons as seekers of enlightenment within the historical norms of reason and judgment. There are those who call us conspirators against moral and civil authority; but far more who see, in Masons, community men with solid moral and ethical values. There are those who believe our secret society has sinister motives; but far more who are curious about our hidden treasure, our mystery, and the quest we make for that which is unknown except to an enlightened few.
We have something else that everyone respects, yet goes unnoticed by many who have nothing good to say about Freemasonry. We have family heritage. It can be suggested that more men have come into Masonry because someone in their family was a Mason than any other reason for joining. We remember the heroes in our life. And we want to be like them. For men everywhere, that is a far more powerful reason to belong than any web-discussion, tel-evangelizing, or idle commentary of the blind catering to the ignorant is a reason for not belonging.
Surveys have shown that 10% of the population dearly loves us; 10% hate us; and the other 80% have no opinion about us at all. Methinks this puts us in the driver's seat in terms of our opportunity to have an impact or "spin" on our own image.