I absolutely can't stand mass-mails that circulate misinformation so I typed up a reply to the guy who sent it to me. We're on pretty good terms and have debated civilly before. Here's most of it...
The author says some people refer to us as an “arrogant country”. While I believe it’s wrong to generalize an entire country as having any particular trait, this email certainly shows the author's hand: he is presumptuous and sociocentric. I believe this message reflects a prejudice among a high percentage of otherwise intelligent citizens (esp in the south), but that’s another story.
Regarding the facts: The 21-gun salute had nothing to do with the year 1776. In fact, the custom predates the American Revolution. The numbers add up, sure, but the significance is purely eisegetical. If you want to read the true origin of the 21 gun salute, check out this link: http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/salute.html
As for the flag folding, according to snopes, that is not the original reason the flag was folded in the traditional 13-step manner. Like many customs, those meanings were ascribed later. The method of folding was originally developed for technique and presentation. If someone chooses to assign meaning, religious or otherwise, that’s their prerogative and I’m glad I live in a country where a person can believe however they wish. But the author is the one who needs to get re-educated in history.
Bear in mind, it would be ridiculous – if those were the true meanings behind the folding – to perform such a religiously-biased ceremony for every veteran who dies.
After all, what if a soldier who dies doesn’t share the same religious views? If he was never a Christian, how respectful is it *of his sacrifice* to perform a ceremony at his funeral in which the fundamental meaning allows for only one religious view - one that he didn’t even subscribe to when alive?
In a country advertising freedom of belief, freedom of speech, and diversity, wouldn’t it be ironic that the traditional military funeral ceremony is, by default, limited in meaning to one religious view?
Thankfully, the VA policy on flag-folding recitations does not uphold such a narrow view (from http://www.legion.org/flag/folding ).
• Volunteer honor guards are authorized to read the 13-fold flag recitation or any comparable script;
• Survivors of the deceased need to provide material and request it be read by the volunteer honor guards; and
• Volunteer honor guards will accept requests for recitations that reflect any or no religious traditions, on an equal basis.
One last thing: I’m not really a history buff but I do know that, among other founding fathers, Thomas Paine was very much not a Christian, but a deist. He wrote a book called The Age of Reason, which contains his views of the Bible.