Of all of the things Christians do...of all of the problems that come out of religion...this is at the very bottom of the list. This is simply a habit people get into (Heck, even I say it sometimes...) - sure it's unnecessary, but it's born out of politeness - and most who say it are simply trying to be polite, not preachy.
I say "bless you" - I was raised to say it (not because my family was crazy god-fearing and wanted to bless everyone, just because it's what they think is polite). It's a hard habit to break, and I honestly don't even care to try to break it, it doesn't bother me at all. It's culture. I do get a bit offended if I'm talking about something in my life that is difficult and someone says "Well God bless you" or something like that, but that's definitely more religiously oriented.
I got out of the habit of saying bless you. instead i say salud. it's spanish for good health, but i don't get offended when people tell me bless you. i do get offended when people try to convince me that i'm wrong for being an atheist.
Naaah... "Bless You" could be easily interpreted as a person's wish for "good fortune" upon you. [Which could be considered a compliment. ^_^] - I get more offended when someone who finds out about my lack of belief says they'll "PRAY FOR ME." - ugh... like I need that! But... everyone's so used to saying "bless you" after you sneeze... that it really has no meaning anymore.
Sometimes when I'm not feeling particularly snarky, I just say "Gesundheit" or "please cover your mouth", or my personal fave, "Bob bless you!"
But I do tend to get offended more often than not, and like someone else has already said, depending on my mood, I usually reply kind of snarky, "You have the power to bless people?! Man, you should take that show on the road and make some money. People pay big bucks to get blessings from a god!"
I get a lot of wide-eyed stares, I get told I'm going to hell, to which I reply right back by saying something like "You have the power to send people to hell too?! Seriously! Take that show on the road, you could make millions and be just like Benny Hinn!"
But there are a lot of things that religious people say to me that seriously annoys and offends me to no end, I live in the south, part of the constantly whipping bible belt, so even just going to the grocery store can end up being an hour of hearing all kinds of religious things said to me.
I've had major back surgery and during the recovery months having to wear back and neck braces, I heard all kinds of religious things said to me by both customers and store employees.
I hate it when people say they are praying for me
They added my name to their churches weekly prayer list
The lord works in mysterious ways
god gave you a miracle!
Just look at how god's love has placed these blessings in your life
god loves you even if you don't love him
Let go and let god
Trust in him to heal you and he will
and so on and on.
I know that getting offended by these things and saying something back just perpetuates the "angry atheist" stereotype, but I don't go around randomly saying my personal beliefs or lack there of, to total strangers in the frozen foods aisle, so I don't appreciate it when total strangers say their beliefs to me while I'm trying to buy food to feed my family and I let out a sneeze.
I know that it's become, to a lot of people, just a cultural thing, that most people don't even stop to think about it, or don't even have any religious tone behind it, but just because something has become cultural, doesn't mean that I, or any other atheist, has to put up with it.
Culture has allowed people to say very offensive things to and about people for many years, and only with telling people that it's not acceptable, that culture can change.
For many, many years, it was totally acceptable and part of culture, to call black people ni**ers, and only through saying it's not acceptable, was it changed.
Do I equate calling blacks ni**ers the same thing as saying god bless you?
No, but again, just because something is culturally acceptable doesn't mean that it's ok to do.
Someone else said that you need to pick your battles.
Where I live, the things that I posted are what I have to battle on an almost daily basis when I walk out my front door, so yes, it's a battle that I have fight if you can even call it a fight.