A person often sneezes simply because a bit of dust has tickled their nasal passages. Or they suffer from an allergy to pollen or something similar.
Or if you're like me, you sneeze when you eat a Tic-Tac or an Altoid.
We rarely sneeze due to illness or impending illness, and yet the standard response to a sneeze is to say, "God bless you" or simply "Bless you." We respond as if something bad has happened or is happening when this is rarely the case.
I'm aware of why we offer a blessing following a sneeze, but still, it's kind of stupid. Right? And since the practice is hundreds of years old when human beings did not understand germ theory, maybe we can dispense with the practice altogether.
Since it's stupid.
I try to avoid saying "God bless you" or even "Bless you" whenever possible, simply because it assumes a religious belief that may or may not be present.
On Seinfeld, Jerry replaces "God bless you" with "You're so good looking," which is slightly better but also applies a physical attraction that might not be present.
Sneezes simply do not require a blessing of any kind.
A cough, on the other hand, is oftentimes a sign of trouble.
It could signal the beginnings of a cold or the flu. The person might be choking on a bit of steak, a grape, or a Lego piece. He may have swallowed of a bug.
Yet a person can hack out half a lung, turn blue in the face, and become physically incapacitated while coughing, and we don't offer a blessing of any kind.
It makes no sense. If we're going to continue to offer a blessing to loved ones and complete strangers every time they make an involuntary outburst, can't we at least shift that blessing over to where it's actually needed?
Let us ignore the sneeze and bless the cough. Let's give it the attention it deserves.