A couple of weeks ago a family member forwarded a mass e-mail which listed a so-called Common Sense Bill of Non-Rights. I provide a link to the list out of a sense of fair play, but I only recommend reading it if you are looking for something to put you in a punching mood. Mostly it is just a conservative diatribe against government handouts. Some of the points stated — such as the idea that we do not have a right to wealth, just the right to pursue it — I am willing to concede. Article V takes a swipe at universal health care. I thought my relative was making a bold statement here, considering said relative is married to a doctor.

But I really took offense at Article XI, which reads as follows:

ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country’s history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!

When I read this I confess I got angry, and had to fight the urge to launch an e-mail diatribe against my relative for sending such ignorant piss. But I have a pretty massive Irish Catholic extended family, and something told me not to rock the boat. I ended up deleting the offending e-mail.

Now I’m having one of those frustrating moments when you realize too late what you should have said, if only you’d been quick enough to think about it at the time. What I should done is responded politely, stating that I have to disagree with certain points in the previous e-mail, specifically the notion that “This country was founded on the belief in one true God.” If that were true, then our Founding Fathers would probably not have made statements like these:

Question with boldness even the existence of a god. — Thomas Jefferson

I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! — John Adams

[T]hese governments . . . thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. — John Adams

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. — James Madison

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. — James Madison

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. — Benjamin Franklin

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. — Thomas Paine

And of course, my favorite:

[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; — The Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams.

I really hope that e-mail gets sent around again.