Odd, I’m not an atheist and I am slightly offended when someone says “God bless you.”
My internal response is “how dare you presume I’m xian?” The underlying presumption of the speaker is that the recipient is xian,and that “God” should be 1) capitalized, 2) singular, 3) named thusly, and 4) anthropomorphically attentive to the statements/ intentions of the speaker. However, although I bristle internally, I normally take the benediction in stride and reply (as prior poster does), “same to you.”
I believe the origin of the saying, in response to a sneeze, was in the middle ages during the peak of the virulent pneumonic plague (secondary to bubonic plague). The pneumonic plague was spread by droplet infection, and was nearly always fatal (as was the bubonic, tho it was spread by fleas - from rats). So, if someone sneezed- the next time you might see them they’d be dead. Accordingly, they may not be seen by a priest “in time” so one offered “God’s blessing” as a help (in the “afterlife”) to the sneezer - who likely would be dead very soon.
In light of this historical perspective, there is also the presumption that I may be dead very soon - implied with the “blessing” statement. I don’t like that implication, either.
Interesting how sayings persist… and the children’s game “ring around the rosy” also refers to the ravages of the bubonic plague during the middle ages.
Re your reference to “merry christmas,” I also bristle at that one. Again, the presumption that I am a xian.
My normal response to that, is to smile and wish them “Happy Saturnalia!” as I walk away grinning while they look somewhat puzzled.
It’s the intent… I DO wish them, and you all, a very happy Saturnalia.