Before Christ? No, how about Before Common Era?

Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Thoughts | 12 comments

Religious influence is everywhere, and all we have to do is scratch the surface of our daily lives to see it. In America their money is emblazoned with the phrase “In God We Trust” on every coin and note. In courts we swear to tell the truth by pledging on a holy book, and pseudo-religious bigotry seeps into every corner of our lives in the forms of homophobia, gender bias and even in the words we use to exclaim. Our seven day week is based upon the seven day creation myth of Christian and Islamic beliefs, even down to the point that we are supposed to rest on the seventh day in veneration for God.

On the cars of religious folks we see messages like “Pray the rosary” on stickers next to Jesus-fish and crucifixes. The dashboards of taxi drivers are either emblazoned with pictures of Mary and crosses on rosary beads, or mini Korans hang from the rear-view mirror, as if in constant reminder for these folk that they believe. There is a church or mosque on every third street corner, and we see people mill about outside the doors of these establishments on Saturdays and Sundays, all hoping to get a piece of the “God action” that is promised within these doors.

Even the system we use to keep track of the years is based upon the supposed time of Jesus’ life. “AD” means “Anno Domini”, which is Latin for “In the year of our Lord”, with “BC” meaning “Before Christ”.

But in Australia, these terms for our calendar system seem to breathing their last breaths. An intentionally inflammatory headline from Miranda Divine from the Daily Telegraph exclaims “The PC brigade kills off Jesus Christ”. The article goes on to say how the “PC brigade” would have the terms AD and BC stricken form the curriculum to be replaced by the terms BCE (Before Common Era), BP (Before Present) and CE (Common Era). Priests and Preachers are outraged, seeing this as an “intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history” (Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen).

Rightly so I say, we are constantly reminded that Christianity is about, and we should take it out of secular society where we can. The proposed terms are secular, and while they still refer to the time of Jesus Christ, they don’t mention him and his life directly.

Why is this good? Because history is not dependent upon the birth and life of Christ, and nor should it be promoted as such. History belongs to everyone, not just the Christians, and our planet’s history is far richer and more interesting than just humanity and its effects on the place. The Christians see this as an attempt to take them out of the picture? Well maybe for some it is, but it is also right to do this. From the article:

“The Reverend Fred Nile said the deletion was “an absolute disgrace … the direction of the national curriculum is towards almost a Christian cleansing to remove from our history any references to the role Christianity had in the formation of Australia and still has today. This is the final insult to remove BC and AD which are still recognised around the world,” he said.”

Oh if only that were true. Sorry to say this Fred, but this is small fry compared to the evil that you and your contemptuous boy’s club serve up, and you should get ready because there will be more “final insults” in the future.

The article concudes with a statement from Federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne.

“Australia is what it is today because of the foundations of our nation in the Judeo-Christian heritage that we inherited from Western civilisation. Kowtowing to political correctness by the embarrassing removal of AD and BC in our national curriculum is of a piece with the fundamental flaw of trying to deny who we are as a people.”

Oh cry me a river, Pyne! What he fails to recognise is that sometimes correctness is mislabeled as “political correctness”simply because you don’t agree with it. This is not PC, this is simply the correct way to do things. Would anyone say that teaching that the world is an elliptical spheroid is politically correct, rather than simply being the truth? Well some may, but we know they are wrong. There will come a day when thing like this storm in a teacup about the terminology of our calendar will make us look like pious fools, and I look forward to that day.

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12 Comments

  1. I just can’t get excited about this change. While changing the labels from BC and AD to BCE and CE shifts away from the Christian underpinnings, the year “zero” still hinges around the mythical events of god’s birth. It all seems so arbitrary.

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    • Well think of it as a token of the general undercurrent in society. It can’t be anything but helpful. Wouldn’t you agree?

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  2. Before Christ can be written out of history, he must first be written INTO history. That has never happened. He appears nowhere in any historical record, there are no eyewitness accounts of his existence and the only place we read of him is in the bible, where we also read that people rise from the dead, that the sun was halted in its rotation of the earth, that animals talk and virgins give birth to babies, so … well, that’s not exactly a historical document then, is it? Marking the passage of time by the life and death of Jesus Christ is as historical as marking it by the life and death of Santa Claus.

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    • Sorry champ but you’re wrong. While there’s plenty of argument over the significance of Jesus and the likelihood of events described in the bible in general, the overwhelming majority of historians accept the birth and life of the person Christianity is based on.

      I can recommend “The Historical Figure of Jesus” by E. Sasnders as a particularly secular account of what is known about the life and times of Jesus.

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  3. When to start counting years is an entirely subjective and emotional choice and Christians happen to be very emotional about Jesus. The fact of the matter is that year 1 was established by Dionysius’ estimation of when Christ was “incarnated”.

    Arguing about the calendar’s dependence on Christianity would inevitably lead to discussion of the French Republican calendar and degenerate in an argument about whether Robespierre killed people because he was an atheist.

    So if changing the calendar is too much of a pain and nothing of any real significance actually occurred in year 0 or year 1 (not even Christians believe Christ was born in those years), then we have no choice but to simply not care.

    Perhaps our alien overlords will force their calendar on us and turn out to be mere minutes different from our own, so the Imperial Day constantly drifts out of sync from Earth time. :)

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  4. Wonder how come in Star Trek they never mention BC or Ad after they give a year. Let’s jump to 2424. Whoosh ! Beam me up Scotty.

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  5. I think this is pretty cool. It may be a hollow thing, that doesn’t affect change in the way people view religion; but it does show that these things can and do change given time.

    Great post Martin.

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  6. They can change whatever they want. It will never erase our spirituality and our religious beliefs. This country is heading down the slippery slope of socialism. Why people find messages of hope through religion (any religion) so upsetting is puzzlling to me. The more you try and erase God (in any form) from our society the more hopeless the people of this society become. Hopelessness leads to depression and despair.

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  7. As a Jew, I’m used to writing BCE and CE for all dates, although as a secular Westerner, I wish we could still based our dates back to the founding of Rome — 753 BCE. Hey, at least it’s an honest date.
    (And, for what it’s worth, we Jews do remember the fall of Rome and the advent of the hideous AD… Well, there’s no way I could ever use Anno Domini — the year of what lord?–to mark any date.)
    But yet, here we find ourselves again, counting time (even when we use that BCE/CE common-era compromise) to reckon time from the birth of some guy whose birth was just as eventful as his death: only in the imagination of his followers.
    Thus we’re stuck with a common era defined by the birth of man whose life has meant persecution and death for those on us not in the in-group — but who still must acknowledge his birth as a marker of time. It’s hopeless.
    I can’t wait for the Federation and stardates, Beam me up — and out of here, Scotty!

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  8. Oh please EllenMarie, take it from someone who ditched religion, you’re much better off without it. I reckon it’ll be pretty clear to you that there is no god. You’ll find a lot of happiness and joy without the artificial constraints of faith.

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  9. I accept his existence, but do find it legendary in the Gospels. Taking him as described there I find him [Google] J.Christ,quack. What rational person would follow his scam of the ages as Miklos Jako describes him in ” Confronting Believers?’
    Too bad Jako,deist, cannot fathom atheism!
    Martin,please discuss why historians discount the mythic view. G.A.Wells now accepts his existence whislt Richard Carrier doubts it.
    Note my objurgation of that scam at that blog!

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  10. I cant find the former name for BCE and CE

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