5 min read

Cults and cryptocurrencies

Cults and cryptocurrencies

There is a problem with cryptocurrencies. Once it is pointed out, you will likely see it clearly for yourself. People engaging with Lotus must understand clearly so that Lotus does not experience this problem. That issue is that communities formed around cryptocurrencies tend to form organically into toxic cults. As someone who was raised in a cult, I have no interest in returning to that mode of living.

Speaking in terms of cults, spirituality, and religion, is deeply off-putting – even to me. However, natural human behavior tends towards religiosity even if we do not understand what we are doing. To avoid that, we must understand the phenomenon.

The reason that cryptocurrencies tend to become cults is that participation is voluntary. Unlike traditional currencies, use is not forced through threats of violence. People engage with them due to some shared ideological belief, or charismatic leader. The token is a shibboleth and a holy sacrament for a community. It symbolizes some set of values and beliefs, and signals membership in a club. The shared belief is what causes the token to have value in the first order. It is the seed from which the value of a coin grows.

Early Bitcoiners had a shared belief that hard money would end war and that banks were evil. They had a God in the semi-mythical figure of the anonymous developer Satoshi – an abandoning God. These people have been replaced with those who believe in money and getting rich.

"Statue of Bitcoin founder honors mysterious god of cryptocurrency"

Then came Ethereum. The believers in Ethereum share a vision of a global shared computer that can automate all of finance. Their high priest is Vitalik Buterin.

"The unintentional high priest [Vitalik]..."

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) was the first cryptocurrency I was involved in. It was started by my friend, and early bitcoiner, Amaury Sechét. He touched on the zeitgeist of an internal conflict going on within the Bitcoin community about the future of the coin. Several different factions followed him, but they didn't get along. For his part, he isn't much of a priestly personality – but two other influencers followed him and brought their followers along: Roger Ver ("Bitcoin Jesus") and Craig Wright (who claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto).

Bitcoin "Jesus"

Bitcoin Cash ended up forking into two more coins: "Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (SV)," and "eCash." Bitcoin SV forked away in 2018 and took with it the followers of Craig Wright. In my view, it is a cult of personality. In 2020, Amaury Séchet – who is an anarchocapitalist – was booted from the Bitcoin Cash community over how developers receive funding for their work. He ended up starting eCash with a small band of Ancaps. "Bitcoin Jesus" – who is a voluntaryist – and his followers maintained control of BCH.

Then we have things like Doge, and Shiba coin, which really don't stand for anything. The followers of these coins seem to idolize certain breeds of dogs. Animal worship isn't anything new – it surprises me no Cat-coin has caught on.

Doge, the god of ... ?

I could provide countless examples of where the acolytes of various cryptocurrencies use religious language and imagery for comedy. But, really their language is ironic – it reveals a truth about the nature of cryptocurrencies and their communities.

As traditional religion wanes, cryptocurrency is filling the hole. A new polytheism is developing. Instead of clay idols, we have tokens. The new gods are living people, and ideas. In this new polytheistic world, we have various monotheists who only believe in one coin. Bitcoin maximalism is one of these religions – monocoiners if you will.

"The Bitcoin Maximalist movement has gotten toxic"

I believe this is the reality of the future. Being allergic to these things, we could turn away from – however, it is best-addressed head on. It seems Lotus is in a precarious situation. I have a need to build Lotus to in order to stop spam once-and-for-all, and I also do not want to start a cult nor a religion. Good religions which are beneficial to their practitioners already exist – and a new one is unlikely to be an improvement. More likely, it would be parasitical.

It seems to me that everyone has a personal religion even if it doesn't have a name. Everyone has a set of values that motivate them to take action every day – the motive force in their life. This is living worship – worship not through prayers and ritual observance, but through acting out our confessed values. Everyone acts out their true preferences.

The root of the word religion is the Latin for "to bind." As in, to bind a social network – a community, or tribe – together. That is the function of a token. Lotus binds together a distributed system of people through a distributed system of computers. It binds them together in a shared system of value. The core value is that people should be free to use Lotus to express their values – whatever those are. It serves as a reminder that you always get to choose what you value, and how you value it. You are free to choose if you choose to be free. You do not have to go along with mainstream values.

Brian, giving a sermon

The action axiom tells us that each individual is best suited to figure out what they should be doing – not other people. But, the action axiom is subject to our values. For me, I value truth, openness to new ideas, contribution to a community, autonomy of action, being challenged, moderation, and dependability. Having clarity on what we value is the first step to living in accordance with them. Do you know your values?

My values lead me to want to build useful things, and I want to have fun doing it with other fun people. It's something I enjoy.  It gives me a sense of meaning and purpose in my life and with the time I have on Earth.

But, I hope Stamp will be useful to others as well. I want it to become the way that people value information, and other people's time and attention. I also despise spam 😂.

If you have thoughts on my writing, I'd love to hear from you on Stamp.