What do you say when people sneeze?

I’m an atheist, and I have no idea what else to say to people who sneeze besides “bless you”

I’ve started to just shush them, as a joke.

Any ideas?

Posted: April 19th 2008

SmartLX www

Gesundheit generally, but here’s another idea:

“Zeus bless you.”

Sneezer: “Zeus? Why Zeus?”

“Why God?”

Posted: April 21st 2008

See all questions answered by SmartLX

flagellant www

There are many opinions on the origin of blessing somebody/something when they sneeze. The response certainly predates organised religion, so it is not universally god-related. Usefully, there isn’t one, universally accepted, explanation.

When I was young, I was given one of the many disputable explanations: that sneezing released a devil upon the World. Blessing the devil forced it to depart. I neither believed nor accepted this explanation at the time and thenceforth, because it seemed that some sort of response was needed, I would simply say “Oh dear!” whenever someone sneezed.

Looking at what different cultures do, it is clear that some treatments are totally secular. It would be appropriate for an atheist wanting to avoid religious connotations to use one of them. May I recommend the most popular one: the German “Gesundheit”, already prevalent in many English-speaking countries? The literal translation is “to your health”, so it’s more like a toast. It is pronounced “g’zz-oont-hite”.

Posted: April 21st 2008

See all questions answered by flagellant


In the country which I live, France, the polite, concerned response to a sneeze is, a tes souhaits (for your wishes).

Many European countries have sayings that emphasize health and not God: the Italian salute (to your health), the Spanish salud (to your health), and of course the German Gesundheit (to your health).

Here is the Wikipedia article on sneezing.

Posted: April 21st 2008

See all questions answered by logicel

brian thomson www

I’ve been saying “Gesundheit!” in the American fashion for years. It doesn’t bother me when someone says “bless you” to me, it’s the thought that counts.

Posted: April 21st 2008

See all questions answered by brian thomson


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum