2 min read

"Common Era": Anti-Intellectual Nonsense

"Common Era": Anti-Intellectual Nonsense

This won't be a long one, but it's a subject I take personally. The designations "Common Era" ("CE") and "Before Common Era" ("BCE") are ridiculous, euphemistic, and just plain stupid.

Why do I take this personally? Because, as a classics major, I was subjected to this nonsense whenever I had a non-Christian professor who wanted to look hip or just give a middle finger to the Christians. You bet I'd take a downgrade before I wrote an inaccurate term on my papers, but it still rankled me when authors and professors who are classically literate would make a point to plop "CE" and "BCE" in an otherwise logical-enough paper.

The reason I find this personally offensive is simple: it's meaningless anti-Christian dissembling. Challenge for the reader: find me a significant event sometime around 1 AD, the sort of event whose importance was architectonic and global, that doesn't involve Christ. I just want one event, one possible justification for what makes the current era "common" and which logically demarcates it from all prior time.

I'll wait.


Ok, I'm done waiting. You can't find such an event, because the architectonic (literally, 33 years later) event which occurred was the Incarnation. Which is why it's consistent to name the dating scheme created in reference to that event anno Domini, "in the year of the Lord."

I get it, for those who are not my co-religionists, it isn't the year of your Lord (or, well, it is, but you disagree). But I respect that you'd rather not pay homage to a God you don't worship; if someone made me track time according to the lifetime of "Oz, the Great and Powerful" or something, I'd be irritated, too.

(Note: I don't care about pagan or imperial date and month names, because they're for false, dead gods who have no living adherents.)

I stumbled across a society of atheists who agree that "CE" is dishonest nonsense, and they proposed "Christian Era" as a workable alternative. I have no reason to cease using AD and BC, but "Christian Era" is neutral and accurate and I have no problem with it.

Honestly, if atheists wanted to propose a hostile takeover of the dating scheme, complete with renumbering to some meaningless, less-important-than-the-birth-of-Christ event (that may or may not have actually happened), go for it. It's intellectually honest and it'll fare about as well as US adoption of the metric system.

But using "CE" to refer to the birth of Jesus without having to say His name (which, by the way, indicates that the Name still holds quite a bit of power) is too cute by half.

One objection I should dismantle briefly in closing: sure, Jesus may not have been born precisely in 1 AD. The inaccuracy doesn't mean we ought to abandon the dating scheme; the calendar is still designed in reference to Christ, they just messed it up a little. It might be logical to adjust the number; it makes no sense to adjust the name, since the goal of the system is to base it off of Jesus, not some mythical "common" event.

I won't say I get the warm fuzzies when people are overtly hostile to Christianity and Christians, but I don't mind if they express their hostility in an intellectually honest way. If they want to dissemble, to reap the benefits of Christian culture while playacting the death of God—for that, I have no patience.