This morning I got an email from a guy named Scott, who asked:
Please answer the following:If there is no God/Jesus, how are the years calculated? (ie: it is currently 2014)Thanks!
I thought it would be easy to find a concise answer to this, but it turns out I had a bit of a hard time. So I’m showing my work! You’re welcome.
Hi Scott,I can’t tell if you are kidding or not, but I can answer your question.While atheists do not believe in God, or in the divinity of Jesus, we definitely believe that the human institutions of religion exist. The calendar that we use today in Western countries is called the Gregorian calendar. It was standardized in 1582; however, it was an adjustment to the older Julian calendar, so named because it was
createdofficially instituted by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. Under this system, there was initially no year 1, as they measured time based on “epochs,” which were continually renumbered based on significant historical events.In the year that later became 525 AD of the Julian Calendar, a Christian monk in Romania named Dionysius Exiguus invented the concept of the Anno Domini era. Under this new system, the years in the Julian calendar would all be numbered based on the presumed year that Jesus was born, i.e. “year one” (there has never been a year zero under either the Julian or Gregorian calendars). From this he calculated that the present year was 525, and eventually this numbering became standard throughout the Western world.Naturally, by 525 AD the Christian religion was already a powerful force in Europe, and since it was a monk who invented the new numbering scheme, of course he would have seen the birth of Jesus as the most important event in history. Regardless of whether this is a correct view or not, the system gained popularity and is now used throughout most of the world. In other words, the years have historically been calculated by the belief in Jesus as it was understood five centuries after he died. And belief in Jesus is something that definitely exists.So now you know. And knowing is half the battle! Thanks for writing.