I lurk here a lot and love to read your discussions. I have some need for advice, and while I understand that going to an atheist community for atheist advice is a very biased choice, it seems the most fitting.
So my first issue is with "bless you." I'm in a discussion on the ffxiah.com forums (Final Fantasy XI, a MMORPG, forum but they welcome all sorts of topics) about this and people think I'm crazy.
I understand that saying something when someone sneezes is considered polite. While I think it's a silly custom I've accepted it for this discussion. My problem with it is that, of course, you're asking God to bless someone. A majority of the time the person does not mean "oh God please bless this person", which really urks me. Religious customs and practices have been engrained into nearly everything that we do, and with my atheist state of mind I find it repulsive. Those that say "bless you" and say it only as a courtesy are just repeating what they've known and heard all of their life. In my opinion it just feeds the religious fire that surrounds our society. Phrases such as, "oh my god," "god damn it," "holy crap!" "oh lord," etc..., are repeated day in and day out all across the country. When you repeat something over and over again it eventually becomes real. Now I'm not saying that by eliminating "bless you" will get rid of religion but it might, over time, slightly weakened the influence of religion that is engrained into our culture. I feel that by "taking a stand against it," or just voicing my opinion about it, that maybe others might agree and think critically for once.
So I expressed my opinion on this and of course I'm labelled as a "crazy atheist." I'm sure that my weak debating skills might have an influence on their opinion but that is besides the point. I mentioned to them that if someone says "bless you" to me that I do not respond with a "thank you" because I am not thankful for the comment. Does this make me an asshole or do others share the same train of thought? I also bring up the fact that if you wish to be polite when someone sneezes, why not say something else? Of course nothing really fits that situation besides, perhaps, gazuntite, which is another reason I have for not agreeing with saying something after a sneeze but I digress...
My second issue is Christmas. I am 27, my wife is 23, and my two children are 1.5 and 5. I am of course raising them to think critically although it's not that extreme considering their age. I have told my oldest that Santa is not real and that it is ok to pretend that he comes on xmas. Many people in my family find this to be horrific but generally seem to keep their mouths shut about it. My wife still wants us to put up a tree and decorate it, which we did, and there are Santa decorations all around the house. We still give gifts to our children and to other family. We still gather for a Christmas dinner and such.
My thoughts on Santa Claus and children is that by following the tradition you are making them believe that something is real when it obviously isn't. While one might shrug it off as "the magic of xmas" I believe it weakens a childs mind to the influence of religion. Religion is the belief that some God exists when obviously this isn't true. It's almost identical. If you want to be extremely conspiracy theorist, you could say that some people believe in God just so they can have that childhood belief of a Santa back. While I'm mostly joking, I'm sure someone could probably make that a legitimate arguement...
Anyways, am I wrong with my thoughts on Santa and telling my children that he does not exist? I do enjoy the xmas season because I get to see family and what not but I think that could be accomplished without a Christian/Pagan/whatever holiday. I just don't like the thought of lying to my children about something so similar to a religious belief.
Thanks for reading and I welcome any advice, both good or bad.