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ETpro's avatar

What's so common about the Common Era?

Asked by ETpro (34210 points ) December 5th, 2011

BC and AD I understand. They refer to a specific event that happened almost 2012 years ago. But BCE and CE are more puzzling. What happened back then that made everything going forward common, and everything that had gone before uncommon? Was it a sudden sea change? Or did some common things happen before before the Common Era (BCE) and the does the Common Era just refer to a time when lots more common things suddenly started happening?

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16 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I just associate it with the world basically using the same calendar now. BC and AD have religious connotations, so I think they came up with BCE and CE because some countries have a lot of people in their country who are not Christian, not even one of the Abrahamic reigions, so they probably don’t reference Jesus to often. For instance China only started using the Gregorian calendar about 100 years ago.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Like @JLeslie says, I think what is common about the common era is that a lot of people now use a particular method of numbering their years. Chalk it up to the influence of Europe and the US over the last few centuries. As different countries adopted their calendar, that way of reckoning eras became common.

Rarebear's avatar

BC = Before Christ
AD = Anno Domini (In the year of our Lord)

Jesus is not my Lord, so I always go by the convention “CE” and “BCE”.

Aethelflaed's avatar

The BCE/CE dating system has gotten a lot of flack for not really moving away from Jesus’ birth, just being more discrete about it. Because you’re right, nothing special besides Jesus’ birth happened 2012 years ago (ok, technically, more like 2016–2019… shhhhh). It would make more sense to use something like a fall of Rome date (395, 476 perhaps, if you need an exact date), or the shift from medieval to early modern (best specific date is 1453 AD, but it’s really a couple centuries of gradual shift, so… not really). I personally always use BC/AD, because even though I’m not Christian, BC/BCE just seems passive-aggressive and dishonest to me.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie Great answer. Thanks. Kudos as well to @SavoirFaire for the second to @JLeslie and to @Rarebear for sharing the view of someone not a follower of Christ.

@Aethelflaed Maybe we should have started the modern era running the day the Chicxulub Meteor impacted the Yucatan peninsula, wiping out all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Had it not been for that event, the dinosaurs would probably still rule earth and not only man, but all large, higher-order mammals would never have been able to evolve.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I was just talking about this to a friend the other day. We just imagined a bunch of guys sitting around saying “ya know what…... look I know we’ve been on this earth and keeping track of history for a couple thousand years now, but fuck it. Lets just start over at zero anything that happened before really doesnt matter anyway.” BC is essentially negative time by our current calendar system which is pretty retarded in and of itself.

The whole CE/BCE as others have stated is just some PC relabeling to make you think your not talking about jesus when you really are. I do agree though, lame names for the relabeling as they dont really make sense at all.

ETpro's avatar

@uberbatman I totally agree.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro @uberbatman So you think totally unnecessary to rename? Or, we should find a better name? Or, we should count from a different starting point?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@JLeslie I think if we were to rename we should have a better name but ideally I’d like a starting point that makes more sense than some religious event.

JLeslie's avatar

@uberbatman The religious event kind of makes no sense either. Most people agree Jesus was not born in year 1. We celebrate his birth on the 25th of December, then why is New Years not the 25th? If BC and AD have to do with his birth?

I also wonder why the Jewish calander starts the day it starts? I actually have no idea.

Common Era actually makes sense to me, but I am not bent out of shape if people use AD. A lot of people are not aware of BCE and CE, so for communications purposes AD is better understood. Actually, rarely do we hear AD, typically AD is assumed in the absence of specifying BC.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@JLeslie Yea I rarely end up using BCE or CE either for the same reason. It seems whenever I use it I get an odd look than I have to explain. It generally turns out easier to just say BC.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie I’d prefer a more logical starting point. Perhaps when writing was first invented, It would be very reasonable to count from when modern man emerged, but it would be difficult at this point to establish exactly when that was. It would be somewhere around 100,000 years ago but may be earlier than that. We’;d have to wait till enough evidence is in to use that method. And dates would get rather long. All our Internet forms and paper forms would have to be revised.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro That answer made me giggle. :) I see your logic. Beginning when writing was first invented and began recording events. I think overall I don’t care how accurate it is, I am fine just acceoting it has been this way a long time, and the world basically accepts the gregorian calender to communicate dates. Now we just have to address the final hold outs like America using mm/dd/year. Or, maybe switch everyone to year/mm/dd, which works better in my computer for organizing data.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I have no problem with creating a new calendar. If you think it’s more logical and can get people to adopt it, there will be no complaints from me. I disagree, however, that using BCE/CE is just a way of pretending we aren’t talking about Jesus. There have been many Christian calendars, and the Gregorian calendar is more than just a way of reckoning years. It has various practical advantages that made it so common. Thus it was repurposed over time, making the BCE/CE divide nothing more than a historical artifact (much like how Thursday was originally Thor’s day).

El_Cadejo's avatar

I just think it’d be really bad ass to be able to say we’re living in the year 102,011. It just makes me feel so much more futuristic :P

SavoirFaire's avatar

@uberbatman Well, there’s certainly no arguing with that!

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