I was led here from a forum where I said I thought discussing this in a group would be better and this seems to be the most appropriate group.

I use: "Counting my blessings" and "grace" and possibly other words that come our of religious language. It would be nice to have a list of non-religious alternatives that would be understood by the general public. Maybe that's not necessary. I couldn't find anything like that online. What do you think?

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I use "grace" as a noun as well, denoting "gracious" or someone who expresses sincere gratitude, humility or respect to others.

"Blessings" I avoid (I absolutely abhor the term "gifted" though).

I don't personally have a problem with "Bless" or "Blessings" being expressed as a "throw-away" platitude, though I tend to dislike platitudes anyway, regardless of origin.

I suppose one alternative, though somewhat pessimistic would be; "It could be worse", or maybe it would be better expressed "I've been fortunate", …as in, "fortune favors the prepared mind"

…Ack! platitudes, now I feel dirty.

How about this one, "There but for the grace of circumstance go I" ?

Which sub-definition of the word "grace" are you using?

This has certainly come up before. Be sure to check in the Forum to see if there is a thread there, too.


I think a lot of us do this, as we've been raised in a culture that uses such language. That has more to do with our tendancy to copy our peers than it does with religion, I think. I never say "bless you" after someone sneezes, though I do use OMG! as an exclamation all the time, and sometimes I describe things as "a blessing in disguise." I certainly try to avoid using that last one, but sometimes it just seems to fit the situation.


I love to say Jesus Fucking Christ though! I can think of no alternatives to that and OMG!, as both seem to be so perfect for the occassions.


Oh, and I sometimes say in reference to something, "well, that's why god invented X," as if to say that X is the obvious solution.

"I love to say Jesus Fucking Christ though!"

Yeah…, I like "Holy Fuck!" as well as its scatological cousin too. Where appropriate of course… It's interesting that amongst Quebec Francophones, …almost all profanity is related to Catholic liturgy: "Tabernac!" "Sacrament!" "Câlice!" "Ostie!" being considered far "worse" than any scatological or sexual terms. Despite Quebec being 33% atheist.

I tend to avoid a lot of the non-irreverent references though.

I don't really think I do this consciously either, it's just that almost all of them are platitudes, which for some reason strike me as blatantly disingenuous whether or not their origins are in theism.

I even dislike the term "talented" as I associate it with "gifted" and consider both insults.

When I sneeze, I try to quickly follow with an "excuse me", hoping that it curtails the sometimes inevitable, "bless you", which makes me cringe. It actually seems to work most of the time.

"Bless you" cracks me up. Quick, your soul is trying to escape out your nose, cram it back in there! Humans think weird stuff sometimes. :)

You realize that your soul turns into a sparrow when you die, and ascends to heaven. (Must be a long flight. Not sure how the sparrow manages.)

Thanks for the responses. I'll have to think about them.

My husband stopped saying "bless you" when people sneeze (after all, we don't usually say it when coughing), though his lack of response in our culture seems uncaring. I think it takes a real effort to change a knee-jerk response like that which we're raised with. I do try to say, "Are you OK?" when someone sneezes or coughs or does something else that might indicate a health problem. Considering its history, though, I don't know why anyone is still saying it except out of habit from childhood. Of course, that's also why most people are religious or theist (including me - not "theist" but "religious").

I said "Oh my God" once as an expression of surprise - it was completely knee-jerk and I felt very appropriate in response to something my sister said, but then her response to me was, "don't take God's name in vain in front of me." with a definite expression of anger. This makes me more tend to not want to be around her than trying to control my language. I'm sure a lot of people have similar problems with relatives.

"his lack of response in our culture seems uncaring."

A replacement for the sneeze thing for some, is the German word for "health"; Gesundheit.

Though, the skeptic in me tends to avoid this one as being wishful thinking.

I sometimes say, "Good Sneeze" …probably because I enjoy a good sneeze.

"...don't take God's name in vain in front of me."

Those who say this to me get the reply, "Okay, please don't make any references to god at all around me, as I find them offensive when taken literally".

I agree about the reply to my sister's remark, but I have a knee-jerk of not wanting to offend, so it will be hard for me to learn to respond that way. I have changed from non-racist to anti-racist, so I can learn to respond differently, though it is hard. I meet monthly with a race discussion group, but I don't meet with a group that concentrates on atheism or anti-theism so that'll make it even harder unless this sort of conversation can continue and I visit this site more often.

"I agree about the reply to my sister's remark, but I have a knee-jerk of not wanting to offend, so it will be hard for me to learn to respond that way."

Neither do I, but I never say; "Oh my god!" with an intent to offend in the first place, so if someone takes offense, it's up to me to offer quid pro quo. Respect is a useless thing unless it's reciprocal (IMO).

"I don't meet with a group that concentrates on atheism"

Nobody in a secular/atheist/freethought group is likely to "call" you on any "blessings" or "grace" references, especially in the US where members are likely to be reconverts rather than "life-long" atheists. 

I encourage you to attend MeetUps in your area though, you're close to the headquarters of many secular associations in DC. Wow, you do have a lot of options where you are! I seriously doubt any are even remotely "anti-theist" though, these groups tend to support tolerance for pluralism.

Should say: "likely to be deconverts"

Sneezes are easy. Even though it's German, gesundheit merely means "health". If you want to stick to English, you could always say "be in good health". Not common at the moment, but we could, in the immortal words of Capt. Picard, Make It So!! :-)




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