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The Common Era (CE) is the period beginning with the year 1 onwards. The term is synonymous with "Christian Era" and also Anno Domini (AD) (Latin for "In the year of [our] Lord"), so named because the Christian calendar considers Jesus to have been born in that same year, thus "Common Era" is sometimes used as a religiously neutral alternative.
The term has been in use since the late 19th century and is common in academic circles worldwide. It has its equivalents in other languages. For example, Chinese uses a translation of the term, gōngyuán (公元), for date notation.
Chronology and notation
The term "Common Era" refers to the same time period described by the Gregorian calendar, which is the world's de facto standard calendar system. The names of the 12 months and seven days of the week within this system predate the Christian Era, but the Gregorian calendar's salient feature – and the one prompting the coining of the term "Common Era" – is its system of numbering and naming years using the presumed birth year of Jesus as a starting point.
Thus, according to this international standard, the September 11 attacks occurred in the year 2001, the French Revolution occurred in the year 1789, and human beings first walked on the Moon in the year 1969.
Users of Common Era nomenclature consider these events to have occurred in years "of the Common Era".
When used as a replacement for the Christian Era's BC/AD notation, the Common Era is abbreviated as CE and is the direct chronological equivalent of AD; likewise, the time "before the Common Era" is written as BCE and is the direct chronological equivalent of BC. Both abbreviations are written following the year, thus Aristotle was born in 384 BCE (or 384 BC), and Genghis Khan died in 1227 CE (or AD 1227).
See also: Anno Domini
The Common Era designation is most often used by academics, especially in the fields of non-Western history, theology, archaeology, and anthropology. Others, who believe that Christian Era notation clashes with their own religious or secular beliefs, have also adopted the designation. In addition, BCE/CE notation is often used by scholars of Jewish history and theology, and some Christian churches also employ the terms in the context of interfaith dialogue .
More visible uses of Common Era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: Canada's Royal Ontario Museum adopted BCE/CE in 2002 , and the Smithsonian Institution also prefers Common Era usage, though individual museums are not required to use it.
Some Christian writers view "Common Era" as an attack on their beliefs, and sometimes interpret "CE" notation to stand for "Christian Era" instead of "Common Era."
Arguments against the Common Era designation include:
- It is an example of political correctness.
- It downplays the prominence of Jesus in societies that have a largely Christian heritage.
- The names for the months and days of the week derive respectively from Roman and Nordic religious traditions, so naming years based on the Christian tradition should not be seen as objectionable.
- Some object to the Common Era's retention of the year 1 as its epoch because it preserves a Christian-centric worldview at the expense of a religiously neutral timekeeping system.
Supporters of Common Era notation promote it as a religiously neutral notation suited for cross-cultural use.
Arguments given for standardizing Common Era notation include:
- Because the calendar used by the West has become a global standard, it should be religiously and culturally neutral out of consideration for those cultures compelled to use it out of necessity. 
- Dating years according to Christian theology has the potential to be culturally divisive in worldwide use. Dating months and days based on Roman and Norse gods, however, is not a concern because the Roman and Norse religions are virtually extinct. 
- It has been largely used by academic and scientific communites for over a century now, and is not a completely unfamiliar dating system. 
- The 'Common Era' - a Secular Term for Year Definition (from the BBC)
- Chicago Manual of Style on usage of CE/AD in the United States (see ninth question)
- Whatever happened to B.C. and A.D., and why? (United Church of Christ)
- The use of "CE" and "BCE" to identify dates (Religious Tolerance.org)
- The 'Common Era' - a Secular Term for Year Definition (h2g2 - BBC)
Controversy over use in schools
- AD and BC become CE/BCE, Evening Standard, Feb. 19, 2002
- History has to be rewritten as school bans BC and AD, News.Telegraph, Dec. 13, 2002
- Before Christ replaced in books, The Courier-Mail, March 2, 2005
- NSW Govt accused of rewriting history over BC ban, ABC, March 2, 2005
- Before Common Era Use in Schools - Question in New South Wales Legislative Council, 2 March 2005
- Comment in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 2 March 2005
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