"CE/BCE" or "AD/BC" dating notation
Groups in favor of CE/BCE:
The Ethic of Reciprocity (the Golden Rule)
suggests that one should not intentionally cause unnecessary pain to other humans. We should
treat others as we would wish to be treated. Since only one out of every three
humans on earth is a Christian, some theologians and other authors feel that non-religious,
neutral terms like CE and BCE would be less offensive to the non-Christian
majority. Forcing a Hindu, for example, to use AD and BC might be seen by some
as coercing them to acknowledge the supremacy of the Christian God and of the
recognition of Jesus
Christ as The Messiah. (The term "Christ" is derived from the Greek word
Consider an analogous situation: the U.S. Pledge
of Allegiance. The most recent version of this pledge includes the
phrase: "Under God." Imagine what a Wiccan
(who believes in a God
and a Goddess), or many Buddhists and strong
Atheists (who do not
believe in the existence of God) feel when having to recite those words.
Consider how a Christian would feel if the pledge read "Under Buddha"
or "Under Allah."
Although CE and BCE had been used mainly within theological
writings in recent decades, the terms are gradually receiving greater usage in secular
writing, the media, and in the culture generally.
A group and individual opposed to CE/BCE:
Many Christians, particularly from the conservative Protestant wing of that religion, are distressed at the new terms. Some feel that AD and BC
have been in use for centuries and that this tradition should be respected. Others see the switch to CE and BCE as just one more example
of secularism and non-Christian religions being given precedence over Christianity.
At its year 2000 convention at Orlando FL, the Southern Baptist Convention
approved their Resolution 9: "On retaining the traditional method of
calendar dating (B.C./A.D.)." With reference to the popularity of the
CE/BCE nomenclature, it stated, in part:
|"...This practice is the result of the secularization,
anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness
pervasive in our society." 3|
|"The traditional method of dating is a reminder of the preeminence
of Christ and His gospel in world history."|
The resolution recommended that Southern Baptist "individuals,
churches, entities, and institutions....retain the traditional method of dating
and avoid this revisionism. 4
Ben Johnson of Hampden Academy in Maine suggested a number of reasons
why he preferred AD and BC. Some are:
|The term "common era" does not appear in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.|
|Better events to choose to represent a major change in human history
|The invention of agriculture, circa 10000 BCE|
|The invasion of Europe by Persia in 491 BCE|
|The birth date of Alexander the Great who conquered most of the known world in 356 BCE.|
|Augustus becoming Emperor in 27 BCE.|
|Columbus arrival in America in 1492 CE|
|The end of World War 1 in 1918|
|The end of World War 2 in 1945.|
|The date when Yuri Gagarin entered space in 1961 CE.|
|The labels AD and BC have lost their religious meaning; few even
know what the abbreviations stand for.|
|All of the older history books use AD and BC.|
|The terms CE and BCE both contain the two letters "CE," making them more difficult to distinguish from each other.|
|There is currently a split between academics -- who generally use CE/BCE -- and the general public who currently use AD/BC.
This split widens "...the rift between learning and the common man."
Comments from visitors to this site:
We probably get more critical E-mails about the use of CE & BCE than about
any other single topic, other than homosexuality,
abortion in the Bible, and whether
Roman Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses are
Some statements against the use of CE and BCE, and possible rebuttals, are:
We have used BC and AD for over a thousand years. Why
|The world is becoming more integrated financially,
politically, socially and religiously. A universal calendar notation is
needed. Recall that for every Christian there are about two non-Christians
worldwide. References to Christ and to the Judeo-Christian God offend many of the latter. A universal
notation needs to be religiously neutral in order to be generally accepted.
CE and BCE meet these requirements.|
|Why cannot non-Christians accept BC and AD?|
|Imagine how you would feel if the notation were BM and AM
where "M" stood for Mithra -- a god-man from Persia on
whom the religion of Mithraism was created. (Mithraism was the main
competitor to Christianity at one time). You would be offended, and distressed at having to acknowledge such
a god-man every time that you wrote a date. Well, this is how many non-Christians feel about
BC ("Before Christ") and AD ("Anno Domini" or "In the year of the Lord").
Consider Native Americans, many of whom associate Christ and
Christianity with the genocide of their ancestors. Consider Jews, many
of whom consider the Nazi Holocaust to have been founded on a foundation of centuries of
|"...your writers seem to think it is either trendy to adopt it or foist it
on the rest of us, or too gutless to stand up against it." 6|
|From what we have learned, many theologians in recent decades used the notation because
they wanted to follow the Golden Rule and to avoid
distressing the non-Christians of the world. Our web site adopted it for the
same reason. A very large percentage -- almost a majority -- of our visitors
are non-Christians. Using CE in place of AD actually takes a lot of "guts." We
continually receive vicious, hate-filled Emails about our use of this notation,
in addition to many Emails that are simply critical.|
|Spend your precious time on other areas of learning that need immediate
|Since the topic of our web site is religious tolerance, and the main
purpose of the web site is to reduce inter-religious hatred and friction, it
seems to us that anything that we can do to reduce religious anger and
worthwhile. Typing "CE/BCE" doesn't really take much more time than typing
"AD/BC". The difference is only one letter. It is worth the investment of our
|If we are going to switch to BCE and CE, should we not be
consistent and remove references to Pagan Gods and astronomical bodies
from the names of the day of the week (Moon day, Tiw's day, Woden's day,
Thor's day, Frig's Day, Saturn's day, Sun day)?|
|That certainly would be consistent. The names of the days of the week are
based on Pagan names. In olden times, Quakers "did not use names for
days of the week or months of the year since most of these names were
derived from the names of pagan gods. A date such as August 19, 1748
will never be found. Rather it would be written as '19th da 6th mo
1748.' Sometimes this will be written as '6mo 19da 1748.' "
It would also be consistent to modify the names of the months, many of which are
based on ancient Roman Paganism:
|Janus, a two-headed Roman God, |
|Februa, a Roman Pagan festival|
|Mars, a Roman God of war and fertility|
|Aprilis, the Roman Goddess of love|
|Maia, the Roman Goddess of the springtime|
|Juno, the Roman Great Mother Goddess|
|Julius Caesar, a Roman dictator|
|Augustus Caesar, a Roman emperor.|
September to December are based on the Roman numbers seven to ten.
Fortunately, very few people are aware of the etymology of the days
of the week and months of the year. Thus, it does not create much
offense. However, "Before Christ" and "In the year of the
[Christian] Lord" is obviously based on a single religion.
This web site uses the date format 2009-JUL-01, to avoid confusion.
6/1/09 means the 6th day of the first month to some people, and the
first day of the sixth month to others. Occasionally we get hate Emails
from visitors who accuse us of being a front group for the Church of
Scientology, because L. Ron Hubbard, its founder, used the same
notation. We are not Scientologists. The format that we used was independently
"invented" by our coordinator decades ago because it simplified sorting in his
computer programs. It is an elegant notation because it accommodates time as
well as date, as in 2009-JUL-01 12:59.
Wikipedia conducted a lengthy debate on whether the BCE/CE notation would
better satisfy Wikipedia's neutral point of view (NPOV) policy. They concluded
that there was no possibility of a consensus.
We use the terms CE and BCE throughout this web site because they are less
hurtful to non-Christians. We feel that this outweighs any of the
objections to their use of which we are aware. We want to communicate ideas while being
civil and considerate to people of all religious traditions. This is compatible
with the purpose of this web site, which is to promote religious tolerance. We
want to reduce discrimination, oppression and unnecessary pain caused to people on the basis
of their religion. Some people call this being "politically correct"
because it is sensitive to the feelings of others. That is their right. But we feel that the use of CE and BCE is the decent and
considerate thing to do.
The United States, where the vast majority visitors to our web site live, is generally regarded as the most religiously diverse
country on Earth. Southern Ontario in Canada, where our main office is located, is generally regarded as the
most religiously diverse region of any country on Earth. Using a religiously neutral method of
identifying dates is thus of particular importance to us.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- R.S. Wachal, "Abbreviations Dictionary: A Practical Compilation of
Today's Acronyms and Abbreviations," Houghton Mifflin, (1999). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- "Anno Domini," Wikipedia, at:
- The term "pluralism" is ambiguous.
It is sometimes used to refer to religious diversity. Other times, it refers
to the belief that all religions are true.
- The text of Resolution 9 is online at:
- Ben Johnson, "BC versus BCE, AD versus CE," undated, was at:
http://www.ha.sad22.us/ The essay appears to be offline. This essay is
- "Letters: Tell us what you think," Cl@ssMate, at:
http://ink.news.com.au/ This is also offline.
- " 'Quaker' dates," at:
- The early Quakers, and others in the American Colonies and England
considered August to be the 6th month. This is because they used the Julian
calendar until 1752. Their year began on March 25th. Thus, March was the first
month and February was the twelfth month.
- "The 'Common Era' - a secular term for year definition," BBC.co.uk,
- "Wikipedia: Neutral point of view/BCE-CE Debate," at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2009-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson