Bitcoin: A Cult Phenomenon

Though the term “cult” has a negative connotation, adherence to the Bitcoin ideology is about changing the world for the better.

According to Tim Draper, an American venture capital investor, Netflix will be the next Fortune 100 company to buy bitcoin. Moreover, the billionaire believes that it’s only a matter of time before Amazon has little option but to accept the cryptocurrency for payments. This comes at a time when the likes of MicroStrategy and Tesla are moving parts of their corporate treasuries into Bitcoin. PayPal has been busy purchasing a technology firm called Curv, which engages in the secure storage of cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

But these institutions are only entering the game long after devoted believers laid the groundwork. This is not a criticism, it’s a fact. After all, Bitcoin needs the likes of Tesla and PayPal to get involved, otherwise any aspirations of becoming a global currency simply can’t be fully realized. These huge companies give the crypto sector a seal of approval it desperately needs, and it’s one of the reasons why Bitcoin has become so incredibly successful.

But what are some of the other reasons for the cryptocurrency’s success?

It’s decentralized in nature, it offers security and anonymity, it’s free from third party interference, etc. What I am asking, however, is this: What are the factors, at a human level, that make Bitcoin so desirable?

And not just desirable, but highly desirable. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that Bitcoin has a cult-like following. Why?

The word “cult” is most commonly used as a pejorative. It conjures up images of chaos and despair; names such as Charles Manson and Reverend Jim Jones instantly spring to mind. Irrational and dangerous. But, one wonders, can some cults be grounded in complete rationality?

What is a cult? It’s simply a deviant group which exists in a state of tension with society.

Across the world, there are thousands of cults. Some of them, of course, are very dangerous. Nevertheless, as researchers at Tennessee State University have noted, “a cult is simply a group or movement held together by a shared commitment to a charismatic leader or ideology.” It purports to have a “belief system that has the answers to all of life’s questions.” Furthermore, cults tend to offer a novel “solution to be gained only by following the leader’s rules.” Lastly, for a cult to be truly successful, it “requires a high level of commitment from at least some of the members.”

Manson had devoted followers, many of them young women. The ”Manson girls,” as they came to be known, were willing to do almost anything for the leader. Ideological loyalty and commitment to the group’s philosophies were essential. Charles Manson was clearly a dangerous criminal and his ideas were inherently racist.

What if another cult happens to have ideas that are both rational and economically sound and open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, etc? What if the underlying ideology is, in fact, rooted in the idea of genuine unity?

In Christian doctrine, the Trinity consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; a unity of sorts, three persons in one Godhead.

The doctrine of the Trinity is “considered to be one of the central Christian affirmations about God.”

Cults also tend to have their own Trinity-like doctrines. First, there’s differentiation; second, there’s the promotion of a lifestyle; and third, there is the promise of liberation from oppressive forces.

Bitcoin, like Apple and Tesla, is truly different. Although thousands of cryptocurrencies exist, bitcoin is a blue whale in a sea of anchovies. It was the world’s first ever cryptocurrency; the world’s first ever “digital gold.” Again, like Apple and Tesla (as well as Ikea and Harley Davidson), Bitcoin promotes a certain lifestyle, one free from banking constraints and third-party intermediaries. Essentially, it promotes a lifestyle based on a greater degree of financial autonomy. Lastly, though it might sound extreme, Bitcoin does appear to offer genuine liberation.

Currently, around the world, one billion people are either unbanked or underbanked; bitcoin offers many of these people a credible alternative. By allowing financial exchanges within an easily-accessible network, the need for centralized financial institutions disappears. Such a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, decentralized in nature, is designed with the people in mind.

Cults consist of deviants, people who wear the badge of nonconformity with a degree of honor. Considering the combined worth of all cryptocurrencies accounts for about 0.7 percent of the world’s money, bitcoiners are most definitely deviants, at least from a financial perspective.

Though the term “cult” suggests something sinister, context is incredibly important. If the underlying ideology is based on sound principles, then, strict adherence to the ideology appears to be rational. Again, the term “ideology” carries its own share of negative connotations (for obvious, historically-significant reasons). Yet, the word merely denotes a system of ideas and ideals. Some ideas and ideals are abhorrent; others, meanwhile, change the world for the better.

Bitcoin aims to do the latter.

This is a guest post by J. Mac Ghlionn. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

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