“God bless you” isn’t just for sneezes. Especially in the South, it’s a hundred other things. People say it instead of “goodbye.” They say “have a blessed day.” They say it as an exclamation when bad things happen. I would like to ask Christians to stop saying “God bless you” and all its variants to me. Am I off my rocker? Did I take a dive off the deep end of the PC pool? Or is this actually a reasonable request? Before you decide, please let me walk you through all the reasons I don’t want you to say it.
First, let’s look at the most obvious reason: I don’t want you to do it. It’s a very simple request, and it wouldn’t really hurt you in any way to grant it. If you had to live the rest of your life without saying “God bless you” to me, would you suffer in any way? I think that you would not, and it would make me happier not to hear it. So, why not just stop saying it because I don’t want you to say it?
Alright, I admit that’s not the strongest argument. You’ve got freedom of speech, and it’s rude of me to ask you to curtail it on my account, right? Who am I to tell you what you can and can’t say?
That’s all true, of course. You can say whatever you like. It’s your constitutional right, and I can’t — no, I wouldn’t — take that away from you. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Part of your freedom of speech is choosing what you will say, and what you will not say. I don’t have to say the pledge of allegiance, nor the Lord’s Prayer, nor anything else that troubles me to say, and neither do you. And more to the point, I can choose not to say things that make people mad or uncomfortable. So let’s talk about something that I choose not to say. Death to Christianity, and all it stands for.
How would you like to hear that every time you saw me? What if, every time you said grace at the dinner table, I added “Death to Christianity, and all it stands for” to the end of the prayer? How would that make you feel? Would you ask me to kindly refrain from saying it? Would you even ask me not to join you for dinner again?
The thing is, that’s really how I feel about Christianity. I hate it. I think it’s a boil on the bottom of humanity, and the world would be better without it. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, and I find the Christian God and his alter-ego, Jesus, to be morally deficient. I think the idea of one person suffering for the wrongdoing of another is repulsive. I absolutely hate the bigotry against women and gays I see in the Bible, and in Jesus’ followers. I hate that the Bible tells women to be subservient to men. I hate that it tells us to kill disobedient children. I hate that it glorifies genocide, infanticide, xenophobia, and torture. I hate, hate, hate that Christians are still pouring money into Catholic coffers after being shown that from top to bottom, the church has protected and even facilitated the abuse of children. I hate that Protestants have corrupted our schools with their creation mythology. I hate that millions of lives have been ruined because most Christians are inexplicably anti-contraception and anti-abortion. I really hate Christianity.
When you say “God bless you” to me, you’re invoking a god I neither believe in nor respect. If I find that he actually exists, I will have choice words for him. I think he’s a jerk.
So let’s be very candid about this. When you say “God bless you” to me, it probably makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re wishing me well. It does absolutely nothing for me. It only does something for you. It’s a selfish thing to say because it only benefits you. When you say it to me, it makes me feel resentful that Christians get to voice their opinions freely, and I am not afforded the same privilege. I feel angry that even asking you not to say it is considered an affront to your ego.
So, should you stop saying it to me? It’s for you to decide, but now that you know how I feel about it, you are in a different place than you were a few hundred words ago. If you choose to say it, you’re choosing to say something you know I hate hearing. You’re telling me those three words are more important to you than I am. If that’s the case, I’m actually okay with it. You don’t have to like me, and you don’t have to cater to my sensibilities. That’s one great thing about America. But I think it’s important for you to realize that you’re the only ones who routinely voice your opinions outside of your own clique. When’s the last time a Muslim wished Allah’s blessings on you? Or a witch said a spell for you? Or a Hindu wished you a happy rebirth? The thing is, it’s… well… it’s rude to presume other people’s religious beliefs. When you’re in your church, I think it’s wonderful for you to say “God bless you” to your friends and flock-mates. You all agree on your beliefs, and you know that your friends like hearing it. But when you leave your church, you’re going into a big, wide world where a lot of people not only disagree with you, but find your religion offensive.
In America, it’s easy for you to disregard this whole argument. You’ll say I should just suck it up and get used to it. This is a Christian country, by God. I should stop being a pansy and telling you what you can and can’t say. Words are just words, and if I don’t like your words, I can just get the hell out. I can move to another country. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it a thousand times. The thing is, you also don’t want me to say what I think. You don’t want me to answer “God bless you” with “Death to Christianity and all it stands for.” That would offend you. It would make you mad. You’d probably not want to hang out with me again, just because I said those words.
Think about how it feels for you when I say “I hate your religion and I want it to die.” I feel the same way when you say “God bless you,” but I don’t get in your face about it. Well, except for now, but you get the point. The point is that “God bless you” is about your religion, and there are more people in the world who are not your religion than people who are. That’s actually the really big point of this whole article. It’s not really about me. It’s about a large group of people, including me, who don’t like your religion, and don’t appreciate having to cater to your rituals or be labeled a malcontent. I don’t want to say “Death to Christianity, and all it stands for.” I don’t like having to choose between either remaining silent and giving you the impression I approve of your religion, or making it clear that I don’t. We don’t need that between us, and you’re the one who’s putting it out there. Maybe it would be better if you only said it to people you know would appreciate it?
Finally, consider this: It’s not my place to tell you what “God bless you” means to you. You have every right to be a Christian, and to attend church, and pray, and anything else you believe your god desires. I wouldn’t take that away from you. Religious freedom is a wonderful thing. And truly, I don’t like that I’ve had to tell you so explicitly how much I hate it when you include me in your religion. But it’s not your place to tell me what “God bless you” means to me. And you presumed too much. So now, it falls to me to tell you what it means, and from now on, if you say it to me, I know that you genuinely don’t care how I feel. And that’s okay. You aren’t required to care about me. But when I respond, “Pardon you, I’m not a Christian,” maybe you’ll remember that I’m being kinder to you than you’re being to me. I could say much worse.