Phrases Derived From Religion

How do you guys feel about saying religious-based phrases in everyday conversation?

I say “oh my god” and “thank god” a lot. I still say “bless you” when someone sneezes. 

Saying these phrases are just an automatic reaction that I would usually not even think about. A couple of years ago I had a coworker and fellow atheist tell me that he avoids these phrases. If someone sneezes, he says nothing. I can really see his point. Even though these phrases are so ingrained in me, I am now more aware when I use them. They’re still coming out of my mouth though, and now I feel a little awkward about using them.

Do you guys use these phrases? Do you avoid them?


  1. says

    I avoid “oh my god” and especially “thank god”. It feels odd for me to use them. I also don’t like the notion of “ceremonial deism”, and using them would seem to support it.

    I still use “bless you” although I suppose “gesundheit” is an easy substitute.

  2. billseymour says

    For “oh my god” when expressing surprise:

      – if it’s something bad, and I’m on the Internet, I would probably include “facepalm” (to express stupidity) or “headdesk” (to express frustration).

      – if it’s something good, or I’m not on the Internet, I might say something like “Holy mackerel!” (and so have yet another “OK, boomer” moment).

    It wouldn’t even occur to me to thank anybody’s god for anything.

    I’ve never said “bless you” when someone sneezes because I knew, even as a child, that their soul wasn’t escaping. 😎  If I say anything at all, it’s probably “gesundheit” which, IIRC, just means “health” (with the implication that that’s my wish for the sneezer).

  3. philipelliott says

    I say gesundheit when someone sneezes, otherwise I don’t particularly avoid religious language. It’s too much trouble!

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    I say “goodbye” now and then. From “god be with ye” to “”godbwye” to “goodbye”.

    There are also a lot of phrases from, or modified from, the King James Bible. A few;

    Apple of my eye
    How the mighty have fallen
    Put your house in order
    Nothing but skin and bones
    Bite the dust
    Wit’s end
    Pride goeth before (destruction, and a haughty spirit before) a fall
    There is no new thing under the sun
    No rest for the wicked
    Rise and shine
    Cast pearls before swine
    The powers that be
    Reap what you sow

    Seems a lot of work to avoid phrases that have taken on a life of their own, largely divorced from their origin. Anyway, I love the language of the KJV.

  5. Bruce says

    The other common thing to say after a sneeze is gesundheit, which is German for healthiness. So whenever there’s a sneeze, I try to say gesundheit quickly, which might deter others from having to bring up their invisible friend.

  6. chigau (違う) says

    If someone sneezes, I say, “Cover your mouth!”.
    I don’t use “god” much in swearing any more but it wasn’t deliberate, I just tend to use bodily functions.

  7. says

    “Do you need a tissue / need to blow your nose?”

    The only religious phrase I use is “faith and begorrah” because it’s Irish and few will understand. Most phrases I use have pop culture references or obscure things and self-censorship because I’m around kids all day. I reserve profanity and “blasphemy” (e.g. “J.H.P.F.C.”) for special occasions, like when I’m around fanatically religious adults.

    “Great googly moogly!”

    “Great horny toads!”


  8. flexilis says

    These types of phrases are really just meaningless social noises to me. 5 decades of atheism haven’t scrubbed them from my vocabulary, though if I think about them at all I feel a little hypocritical. I do try to remember to say when someone sneezes, “Hail Sneezer.”

    I am temporarily in a part of the US where most geographical names have a religious meaning (in Spanish). That takes me a little getting used to, if I consider what they stand for.

  9. billseymour says

    Off-topic for this main post, but Rob Grigjanis said @4:

    I love the language of the KJV.

    I read the Bible from beginning to end about a year and a half ago. I chose the NIV because I had heard from a number of sources that that’s the translation that fundies like, and I wanted to deal with what they consider their strongest argument.

    I wish I had just stuck with the KJV. At least I would have had some prettier language to mitigate the dreariness of the exercise.

  10. wsierichs says

    Well, I don’t always avoid religious language, but I do try to be non-sectarian, so I might say “Thank Zeus” or “Oh my Quetzalcoatl.” Ever since a certain series of movies came out, I have been inclined to say “Thank Thor!” I’m trying to break that habit before it becomes, well, habitual.

  11. says

    I say “oh my god” and “thank god” a lot. I still say “bless you” when someone sneezes.

    For the first I usually say “good grief” or “WTF” depending on who I am with.
    For the second “Thank goodness” or “thank dog” depending.
    For the third, “aah choo” or “hold on to your hat” or anything else appropriate.

    Relearning automatic social phrases isn’t impossible.

  12. Holms says

    I don’t bother avoiding religious language in my swearing and exclamations. Things like goddammit, oh my god, jesus fucking christ have taken on a life of their own in the vernacular and no longer strike me as religious at all. Other more polite religious phrases, such as bless you and thank god, were never in my habitual vocabulary to begin with, I don’t know why.

    But as Rob points out in #4, a surprising number of words and phrases originally come from religion without it being general knowledge. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are are named for the Norse gods (Tyr, Odin / Wodan, Thor, Frigg / Freya respectively), Saturn is from Roman, and Sunday and Monday are from sun and moon worship. January and March Are also named for Roman gods (Janus and Mars), with July and August being being named for real people (Julius Caesar and Augustus) who were deified meaning they are kinda sorta named for religious figures as well.

    Strewth is religious in origin too, but that’s one I not only don’t avoid, but wish I saw more often.

  13. StevoR says

    I guess “Crikey!” (& variants like Cripes & Geez / Jeepers) technically counts too & I use them a bit. I’m not overly fussed although alternatives either exist or can be created like OMFSM – Oh my Flying Sphaghetti Monster for Pastafarian use and “By the purple plague!” (Used in a kid’s TV cartoon namely The Mysterious Cities of Gold’.) You can also naturally substitite with other religious refs too eg “By Jove” or “yegods!” which at least pluralises it and implies a pantheon rather than the Abrahamic diety and things like “A-yi-yi!” – hear The Gods must be Crazy’* & use different spellings like “Gawd”, “Jeebus,” etc ..though again not sure if they really count.

    It’s no big issue far as but as # 12 Lofty notes : “Relearning automatic social phrases isn’t impossible.”” Some creative and habit breaking phrases can be chosen if folks wish to.

    * See :

    (Land Rover Stuck In The Tree Scene From The Gods Must Be Crazy 1 minute 8 seconds mark.)

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