Total faux pas: I once said “Bless you” to an atheist. When I realised what I had done, I immediately felt awkward and wondered if I had offended him. In some cultures, this response is benign, a mere wish for good health. In other cultures, however, it alludes to various beliefs about God and invasion of the body by evil spirits.
For me, saying “Bless you” in response to a sneeze is more a reflex action and sign of politeness than anything else. But is it politically incorrect?
I think you can say 'bless you' without it having religious significance. I say bless you when someone sneezes, but I'm not necessarily wishing someone religious blessings.
In a birthday card, I'll often say that I hope someone's day is blessed with happiness, I think that blessings can be good wishes outside of religion.
Like many things in our language, this can likely be taken several ways, but I'd not imagine you'd cause offence.
I am not sure but was told once that the custom started back in the days when sneezing was a sign of a plague like illness that commonly lead to death.
The bless you saying was meant to be a way of helping the person to avoid the worst outcome. We all need to take a chill pill and stop being over concerned about being politically correct. If you care for your fellow man or should I say person. (Oh bugger I have really stepped in it now) then it should not really matter what words you choose to communicate with. It should be more about the intent.
Base line. When I last looked, Australia was/is a Christian country, & at this current time, headed by a devout Catholic PM.
With me it's an automatic response to say 'bless you' if someone sneezes! Most people reply with a 'thank you'.
If you're offended by someone saying it to you, maybe you need to go on a 'long journey'!
If a person says, "Bless you," they are being polite. Politeness is a form of good manners. We were brought up to have good manners. If a person gets offended about being offered politeness they should naff off and have a good look at themselves.