Comments on the "GBY" Subject
Sorry, we simply cannot post all of the many comments received. We included a sufficient number to show diversity of responses and opinions. Some had to be trimmed for length.
We shouldn't pick a discussion of philosophy over someone merely expressing a platitude common in society. Especially one that resulted from centuries ago reflecting the fact that a mere cold resulting in a sneeze may will kill you. We need to pick our discussions carefully and in settings that allow a full understanding to be reached. People whose lives are based in faith are not likely to very open to a logical discussion of belief systems. Best we just make a strong and unmistakable case for our beliefs and let reality settle the differences over a looooooooooong period of time.
“No thank you." -- A simple, but eye-opening reply to "God bless you" that I've toyed with for a long time. It opens the potential for a lot more conversation!
When someone sneezes, I always say "Good Health!" (I am Dutch, and my family always said "Gezondheid!") If someone says GBY to me in this context, I just say thank you - there's no point in engaging at that time, it just makes you look cantankerous. If it's a friend, you might say that you believe sneezing has no supernatural connections, but thank you for the thought.
In other contexts, it's a bit difficult - there are all these kindly souls out there who love to GBY at every opportunity, it's their little way of saying thank you in a very special way. I say, just let them! When I personally want to thank someone in that way, I say: "Thank you so much, that's very kind of you". That one works for me, but I vary it a bit depending on the age and gender of the person, eg: "TYSM, you're very generous" or "TYSM, have a great day" or something like that.
(I)t would not be good manners to challenge it when it is offered in a social context. The best thing we can do is to be scrupulous about avoiding such verbal commonplaces ourselves, and murmuring something anodyne like "...so kind..." when GBY is thrust upon us.
I'm looking forward to others' contributions!
“You are in my thoughts.” -- This is followed by a sincere smile, and perhaps a Clinton-style two handed handshake. Should the discussion go on further, the non-believer might point out that saying 'God' bless you' to a KNOWN non-believer, is an insult. It's like saying 'Ok, I have heard your silly argument, now listen to the truth!'. It's like a superstitionist saying 'Jesus loves you anyway.' The non-believer might then continue by saying 'I know you weren't trying to insult me because you are obviously a nice person, but this is just for your ‘future reference'.
If someone says "God Bless You" or an equivalent phrase in response to an action one undertakes then the appropriate response is 'thank you' what ever one's religious outlook.
When you sneeze, and someone says GBY, that's pretty much a formula, like "to your health", and the only civil reply is "Thank you". When you give a donation, GBY means "Thank You", and the only civil reply is "You're welcome."
They aren't asking if you believe in God, they're reciting a standard politeness formula. I don't think that's the time to tell them you don't believe in God - just make the normal courteous response and move on. Seems to me that replying with some statement about faith vs logic is just churlish.
I guess that any response could upset somebody somewhere who, after all, only meant well. One could argue, if desperate, that the term gby was offensive but I would hope brights would rise above that. … I feel brights should simply conclude that at this sort of level terms should not be taken at face value but simply as labels for being wished well. Of course if someone wants to take it further then they are open for a more robust response, but until then why appear churlish and grumpy?
I don't know a way of replying to a wish of religious wellness or thanks without sounding a bit snide. That will almost certainly engage the well-wisher in a time consuming dialog about the reply, which works for the purpose of furthering a secular agenda but, in most cases is not appropriate.
Why would a polite person respond at all, except with a "Thank You." You have been offered is something that is very important to the speaker, and the fact that no gods exist to carry out the blessing is immaterial. We do not need to express our "brightness" when unsolicited…(W)hy pick a fight when none is called for, and in a situation that would impress no one but our own egos? The name we have chosen gives the perception that we are arrogant enough. Let's not demonstrate it more.
Gesundheit should work and remarkably does not have a strong germanic tradition.
My "sainted" motherinlaw, an aristocratic baltimorean, automatically used "gawbless" as a signoff, and I would usually reply "You too". I think this is a no problem problem.
When I overhear someone saying "GBY" to another person, I say "If he doesn't, then I will!" If "GBY" is addressed to me, I say "If he doesn't, will you?" And if there's time, you can go on to explain where the idea to "bless" sneezers came from--unenlightened people who had no knowledge of the medical reasons for the sneeze, and who believed it had to do with evil spirits inhabiting the sneezer's head and body!
'GBY' is a part of the background of Irish life - the Gaelic word for hello 'Dia Duit' literally means 'God be with you' (It may amuse you to know that the traditional response is 'Dia 's Muire Duit' - literally 'God and Mary be with you'!). As a result, I have found that a simple 'Thank you' suffices for most of the several daily instances; but if I feel that a point needs to be made, I simply say 'I appreciate the sentiment' which seems to carry the implication that I don't share a religious belief fairly well without being rude or negative. Try it - you may like it!
I'm just not that thin-skinned that it bothers me, but if I do say anything, I usually point out that the origin of that response is the superstition that a person's soul escapes in a sneeze, and you have to put it back. It's not in any way confrontational, just an interesting tidbit. Ceremonial deism and similar meaningless habits just don't seem worth worrying about.
I never use the " gby' . My response is the Germany term; Gesundheit! It translates to " To your health". I have " taught" this term to my children and grandchrilden. They enjoy it. More importantly, they use it.
The shorter version "Bless you" is acceptable to me as I presume that it is the speaker that is blessing me not god.
"God bless you" is said in English when you sneeze. In Spanish we say "¡Salud!" (something like "¡May you be healthy!"), but sometimes Christian people may say "¡Jesús!" when you sneeze. Whichever God or Jesus is named, this is what I use to reply when someone throws it to me: -[God bless you!] -How do you know he will do that? (He must have better things to do than wipe my nose).
My favorite: "Your blessing is thanks enough!" [any similar], stressing you are happy to receive thanks from them, not their God.
It is aggravating that in America, we have only one thing to say to a sneeze. In Spanish-speaking countries, for example, one may respond to a sneeze with "Jesus!" (the shortening of a blessing, perhaps) or "Salud!" (a toast to health) or even a mutli-sneeze protocol:
Sneeze 1: Salud! (health)
Sneeze 2: Dinero! (money)
Sneeze 3: Amor! (love)
Regarding a reply to GBY/BY, my first suggestion would be to respond to this (and to all "Bless You"s) with the German "Gesundheit", a wish of good health. My problem with this suggestion is that many people misunderstand this word to mean "god bless you", so that they may think you are asking for some blessing on them in return. This obviously is not our goal.
A second and similar suggestion is to reply with the Spanish toast "salud" (health). There is no common misconception to its meaning, so that one who recognizes the word will know that you wish them good health, and one who does not recognize the word will ask you what you said.
I don't think the intent is as much a religious/mystical one as it used to be. It has now just become a social convention, and I ignore it, but thank the well-wisher for their thoughts.
If I say anything at all, it's "Santé" ("health," in French) and only because people might think I'm rude or don't care about them if I say nothing, but I usually grit my teeth while doing that. But, here's something to remember: The origin of saying "bless you" when somebody sneezes is the ridiculous belief that your spirit could leave your body when you sneeze. I explain that when appropriate, in case somebody might have the inclination to live rationally. Rare, unfortunately, huh?
I don't normally let them get away with it, but I let them know my position as gently as possible. However most of these people cannot comprehend a negative response, so I might have to explain further.
When I was a kid, I remember reading an explanation of the "God Bless You" ritual for sneezing. The claim was that people said it because they were afraid the sneezer's soul would fly away, and invoking God's name would (of course) magically prevent this from happening. And it had to be said _immediately_ after the sneeze. (There was some other ritual used if the sneezer was alone; I think you were supposed to put your finger over your nose.)
When I hear it I usually say, in a deep voice, "May your soul remain in your body forever!"--which greatly confuses people these days...
I would never dismiss the kindness of a person saying "God Bless You". I am a nonbeliever but it's really not important to me, nor offensive, to be so addressed. I'm not trying to change the world to my point of view; I just don't want anyone proselytizing. I feel one's ideas about religion should be kept private and should I be asked I'd simply say I was raised to discuss neither religion nor politics.
When I worked as a writer on a TV game show I'd invariably get GB'd when I sneezed, so I'd say, "I appreciate that." Since I do appreciate a GBer being so concerned for my health that they'd make a plea on my behalf to their imaginary man in the sky. Totally unnecessary, but I don't want to be rude.
Yes, we have our task ahead of us to overcome the limitations of our language to express and encourage Bright-ness Thank you for helping us with our first steps. The response I tend to use to such insensitive statements as "God Bless You" is merely: "Good Health to you, too." Perhaps an alternative (but the trick is to train yourself to say these things reflexively) might be: "Praise not needing a god to be healthy.” The lack of an object to glorify in such passing statements makes it tough for a Bright to respond, as you have illustrated.