Against BCE/CE

Some people prefer to use BCE/CE for dating eras instead of BC/AD. This is extremely stupid.

I was first introduced to this convention when I was a Wee Jew, say about 10 years old, by my then-Rabbi. The explanation was something like “we’re Jews, using the Christian era-naming convention is not great because we don’t want to sprinkle references to Christ all over the place because he’s not the messiah.”

As far as I know, this is the real explanation that adults justify their use of BCE/CE with, as well. How stupid is this? Let me count the ways:

  1. You’re still sprinkling references to JC all over the place, because the system is still obviously designed around the date we’ve all sort of accepted was Christ’s birth year even though it probably isn’t.
  2. Why is calling everything after Jesus the “common era” better than saying it’s “the year of [Jesus]”? it’s still saying that Jesus was central to an entire new world order, at which point we split with the past in some ineffable but fundamental way
  3. In the real world, using BCE/CE just makes people do a mental hash look-up to BC/AD, which forces them to consciously think about the fact that our dates are references to a putative messiah, which exacerbates the problem.
  4. If you actually cared about mitigating the Christian centrality of our culture, and you’re a Rabbi informing a Wee Jew not to give Jesus a dominant position in your dating system, why not use… the fucking Hebrew calendar, which goes back 5777 years already?
  5. BCE is 3 letters, unlike BC, AD, and CE, which is stupid and asymmetrical.
    1. Some day some piece of software is going to truncate it to two letters, and then you get BC, which, lol, or you get CE, which is just wrong.
  6. People apparently don’t even agree on what CE stands for? I’ve heard “Common Era” (which is stupid? why is it common? what does that mean?”) and “Current Era,” which makes somewhat more sense but leads me to wonder when we get a third era. Except nobody has any plans on creating a third era! We all still agree that post-Jesus-life is the end of history (at least as far as dating systems go).
  7. Even if you really genuinely do think that reducing the Christian-centricity of our culture is an important goal, this has to be about the least useful way of doing that imaginable. What’s the endgame? in 2 or 3 generations, everyone writes CE on their checks instead of BCE, and has stopped using that hash lookup?

Anyway. The real point here is that randomly renaming things in an ad-hoc way is stupid and unhelpful. If you genuinely think that the date system is anchored wrong, anchor it somewhere else; don’t anchor it to the same point and then stick your fingers in your ears and shout “la la la I can’t hear you it’s totally not about Jesus anymore it’s just a coincidence that it lands in the same exact place.”

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