“B.C.E.” is for posers. The historical abbreviation B.C.E., for “before the common era”, is supposed to institute a secular alternative to “Before Christ”. But you know what? It still indexes time by the birth of a certain well-known Nazarene Jewish prophet.
B.C.E. wishes it weren’t Christian, but has changed exactly nothing from the Christian calendar.
The Hijra took place ~622 years after the birth of Christ. So Hijri calendars demarcate “the year 2000” as 1420 A.H. The Taiju calendar started counting 104 years Before the birth of Christ. The Maya calendar and its antecedent in the Olmec religion seems to have assumed that the current creation began 3114 years before the most famous Nazarene, bearing the name of יֵשׁוּעַ, was born. And Christ himself wouldn’t have said he was born in year 1 — he was born in 753 A.U.C., 753 years after the founding of the City of Rome (ab urbe condita) — although if asked, he would have said he was born in the year of the consulship of C Iulius Caesar & L Aemillius Paullus.
What’s so Common about the Christian Era?
Here are some secular achievements that could conceivably index human time:
- the invention of agriculture, ~8000 B.C.
- the domestication of dogs, ~8900 B.C.
- the invention of writing, ~3000 B.C.
- the founding of the first city, ~1100 B.C. (~350 )
- the Allied defeat of Hitler, 1364 A.H. (1945 A.D.)
- the Industrial Revolution, ~1194 A.H. (~1780 A.D.)
But you know what? We don’t use those indices. Our calendars are religious. Why paper over that fact by renaming a clearly religious demarcation with something that starts with the same letters?
Everyone knows that it’s disputed whether a guy named Yeshua was the Christ and that Christianity as a doctrine is disputed. We all agree that Christianity isn’t the only religion out there. Saying “Before Christ” simply acknowledges that Anglophonic culture has a particular history, with Christianity at its centre.
* Bonus nerd fact: Dates in the Star Wars canon are indexed by BBY and ABY — Before and After the Battle of Yavin. What was the Battle of Yavin?
It’s the battle at the end of Star Wars IV: A New Hope, where Luke flies in the channel of the (first) Death Star and shoots the small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port.