Atheist Against “C.E.”
Over the past couple of decades, a movement has been formed to get the names “B.C.” (Before Christ) and “A.D.” (Anno Domini, Latin for “In the year of our lord”) replaced with “B.C.E.” (Before Common Era) and “C.E.” (Common Era) due to the religious references in the aforementioned systems. Although the use of the term dates back to the early 18th Century, the government of England and Wales both recommended putting it into education starting in 2002, and many schools in the United States have done the same. I have little doubt that, late in my lifetime, I will hear “C.E.” and “B.C.E.” used exclusively instead of “A.D.” and “B.C.”
Mind you, my objection to this is not religious. I am an atheist, and I am very aware that Christ was likely born a few years off of what he considered the start of “the years of our Lord.” (As YouTuber Shane Killian points out, certain events point to Jesus being born in 4 B.C. while others point to him being born in 6 A.D. Meanwhile, Christ was not even born on the first of January of a new year — some scholars believe he was born during the Summer, and Christians in the West believe Christs’ birthday is six days before the new year while Christians in the East believe it is six days after.) However, my objection is more based on the fact that, if this is an attempt to secularize our dates, it does not a very good job.
Why does the “common era” begin where it does? Because that is around the time Jesus Christ is said to have been born. This means that, no matter which timescale you use, you still have to deal with the religious reference. You still have the assumption that Christ was at least important enough to where the “common era” began with his birth.
Mind you, I would not be against using a different timescale entirely if such a thing were proposed. In L. Neil Smith’s North American Confederacy novel series, Thomas Jefferson creates a new timescale called “Liberty Years” where 1776 becomes Year Zero, it becomes known as Anno Liberatis, Latin for Year Of Liberation. (Jefferson also developed new measurements of weight and height — because Smith’s view of Jefferson is that of a comic book fanboy talking about his favorite characters.) Although I’m not sure if this system would ever become mainstream, at least this is a new system that begins the “common era” at a secular place.
The first civilization is commonly considered to be Mesopotamia, founded around 4000 BC (or 4000 BCE if you’d prefer). Wouldn’t this be a better point for the “common era” to begin? How about the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 BC? Considering the Roman Empire was one of the longest-lasting empires in all of history, as well as the one the entire west tried to recreate time and time again, wouldn’t this also be a good start for the “common era”? Why must the “common era” begin with the birth of Christ — if this is really an attempt to secularize our recognition of history, it’s not a very good one considering we’re still starting at the same place.
Or maybe Spongebob Squarepants had the right idea, we should still keep “B.C.” and simply call it “Before Comedy.”