Believers and sneezes

I have seen on these boards several times asking atheists what we think when we sneeze and someone says “God bless you”. I haven’t seen and wasn’t able to find any posts on what believers think when they say “God bless you” and don’t get a reply or even acknowledgement.

I will say thanks because it is the polite thing to do, however, I don’t say “bless you” because personally I think it’s silly. After all, we don’t say anything for other bodily functions.

So believers, do you feel slighted when someone doesn’t say “thanks”, do you not worry about it or is it just a force of habit that you don’t even think about?

It’s just conventional politeness, not a sincere request for divine aid as I mostly don’t feel the affliction is serious enough to need it. So if the hearer just treats it as “random background noise I hear when I sneeze” I have no complaint whatever.

No, I don’t particularly care.

ETA: in my case it is sincere - I do really want God to bless you.


I’m an observant Catholic, but never thought of saying “God Bless You” as a real prayer or religious ritual. To me, it’s just a reflexive phrase of politeness, like saying “Thank you” when you hold the door for me, or saying “Excuse me” after a burp.

I’m an atheist and I do feel a little silly thanking someone for a saying, “God Bless You.”

But I also feel like a dick not responding. Generally, I come back with an equal and opposite, “Excuse me.”

Pretty much this. I’m an atheist, but I reflexively say “bless you” (although not “God bless you”) when somebody around me sneezes. It’s not a prayer - just convention.

I respond with Jack Batty’s “excuse me,” too.

I am not an atheist, but I don’t say “God Bless You” or any other such thing in response to sneezes because of its origins. Further, there’s no social convention for any other bodily functions, except on behalf of the person who is actually doing them (usually “excuse me” or “pardon” or whatever). In fact, I think it’s weird that people are expected to excuse themselves if they burp or cough or fart but not for sneezes, and yet others are expected to acknowledge a sneeze and not any others. Why can’t it be like the others?

I will usually not respond to an acknowledgment of my sneeze either, but occassionally I’ll say thanks if I think it would be socially awkward and I don’t feel like dealing with it.

People actually say the “God” part?

Anyways, the only Christians I know who take the comment seriously are the ones who refuse to say it, since it’s a superstition, and they believe all superstitions are a form of witchcraft. Or they think it’s indirectly invoking God and thus using his name in vain.

Everyone else just says thank you (unless they said excuse me before the person had a chance to say “Bless you.”

EDIT: Oh, and my Dad has always said, “Gesundheit.”

Seconding **Blaster Master **here. When I sneeze, I reflexively say excuse me and would as soon no one say anything else about it. This goes double for when I’m having an allergic sneezing fit–I occasionally run into folks who feel the need to obtain divine sanction for every sternutation. Folks, this is the Lord and Creator of the Universe we’re talking about; a single application of His Holy Blessings should be enough to last me through an entire day of sneezing.

(On the other hand, my allergic sneezing fits have occasionally been called “the drunken sneezes,” and often involve a lot of me staggering around and cursing if I’m not in polite company, so maybe I do need multiple applications. On yet a third hand, however, impolite company isn’t likely to bless me anyhow!)

I never say anything. It’s stupid to say something after someone sneezes. We don’t actually believe our souls try to escape through our mouths so why bother?

Now, I do say thanks when someone says it to me, because if it’s important enough to them then I can at least acknowledge it.

Hm. Another atheist here. I suppose I never considered the post-sneeze expression (“bless you” and equivalents) to require acknowledgement on the part of the sneezer, and I don’t recall anyone responding in an offended way or really at all. And I sneeze more often than desirable. On the other hand I do tend to say “excuse me” or more likely “sorry” afterward, so maybe that’s enough.

(For the record, when the tables are turned [is that a joke?] and someone else sneezes, I tend to say “gesundheit”. Although I hold no particular animosity toward expressions with obvious religious etymology, I concur with someone above: I feel a little silly saying “bless you”.)

The way I think about it: a sneeze is an unpleasant and involuntary action with minor ramifications for those nearby (noise; germs). Acknowledgement of the sneeze — bless you; gesundheit; or some other short expression of sympathy — lets the sneezer know that it’s okay and that you’re sorry she sneezed.

A tiny, tiny little thing, but the social contract is full of tiny, tiny little things, so I just flow with it.

Meh. If you take exception to “bless you,” then you logically have to expunge “bye” from your vocabulary, along with god-knows-how-many other deity-related words and phrases commonly used in religion-free contexts.

Just wanted to jump in with my 2 cents. I am a Christian, and had grown up saying “God bless you” among family and friends. I do think it’s kind of silly - depending on who you believe, the origin comes from the belief that the soul can escape the body when you sneeze, or something like that. I of course don’t think I’m helping someone’s soul stay in their body when I say it, and I think it’s silly since we don’t have little phrases like that for when someone burbs or farts. But I do feel rude to not say it.

When I started dating Mr. Ipsum, who is agnostic, I asked him what he would like me to say (if anything) when he sneezes. He said that just saying “Bless you” is fine, so I’ve actually started using that phrase with everyone. Perhaps if he was a very militant atheist he would have a problem with me saying something, but he is fairly easygoing about religion as long as people don’t push their beliefs on him.

Ah, Wiki - is there nothing you don’t know?? I found it interesting…

I feel slightly guilty when I don’t say thanks, but I don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes. It’s a waste of words and a social remnant of a ridiculous superstition.

I’ve never met anybody who said “God bless you”, only “bless you”. I got berated once by an idiot who was offended by my instinctive Jesús and accused me of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” (we were in the US, but I’m Spanish - we say Jesús or salud, “health”). I pointed out that the “bless you” she considered acceptable was simply the other half of the same sentence; a pastor who happened to be present confirmed it.
I don’t give it much thought when people don’t acknowledge my Jesuses and it would never occur to me that it could be a matter of belief, but if they make a fuss over them I do file them under I for Idiot, M for Moron and S for Should Not Be Left Out Of The House Without A Keeper.

I’m in agreement with you on that. Sneezing is a bodily function not a religious experience.

However, I think from now on I’m going to start saying “Bless you” when someone farts. :smiley:

I say gesundheit. If someone says bless you, I appreciate their manners. No one likes to sneeze in front of everyone!

What a strange affliction to possess only a limited number of words. Is that a daily quotient, or a reserve that will render you permanently mute once depleted? :wink:

To the (usual) confusion of others, I already do this sort of thing — after hiccuping especially, but any kind of audible and sudden biological occurrence. By my reasoning above in an above post it makes sense to me; acknowledgement expresses sympathy.

(And if someone’s soul can escape with a sneeze, why not with a hiccup or a burp? Gotta do my part to keep all them souls rounded up proper.)