The above sources says it is based partly on a screed by Ben Stein, which is easy to believe considering other things he's written.
Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Steven Levy, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to many countries as it does to America.
I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat...
A full copy of the email is at
Did this originate with a sincere "Tea Partier"? I doubt it. Such people think they understand the world although they understand it wrongly, and are eager to explain how they think it works, but they don't manufacture such lies. Here is an example of what I'd easily believe came from a sincere but anger-choked Tea Party member:
But somebody somewhere is turning out these "big lie" emails. Somebody gets them from a friend or relative which helps to get them past the natural skepticism filter. How far back does one have to go to find the big liar? It is very hard to say.
I've tried to give a picture of this whole phenomenon in "My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land (revision)"
False attribution is a very common methodology in "email-land". Wall Street Journal Articles, a piece by Lee Iacocca, and even a piece by Charles Krauthammer (who apparently isn't right wing enough for the email writer) have been manufactured to lend somebody's good name to complete lies.
Does it matter? I think it does, and has largely been behind substantial minorities of Americans believing such things as that Obama is a Muslim, or was not born in the U.S.