God may be dead, but religion isn’t.
The “Bitcoin 2021” conference brought together a ten-thousand-plus legion of devoted believers. Founders, investors, developers, day traders, and retail hodlers swarmed the modern-day Vatican of the Bitcoin movement: Miami. Followers of Bitcoin maximalism baked in the Florida heat, intoxicated off mirages of Lamborghinis and Rolexes that could be theirs. Before thousands of wide-eyed attendees like Joel Olsteen preaching at a megachurch, prophets like Michael Saylor called Bitcoin the “apex” of human achievement, while architects of the Holy Capitol blatantly acknowledged the asset as a full-fledged religious movement.
“I’m here to tell all the haters and all the doubters that this is not a moment, this is a movement,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez onstage.
“The more you fight religion, the more holy it becomes and the stronger the movement becomes,” Miami’s largest landlord Moishe Mana, whose namesake convention center hosted the conference, told The New York Times.
If Karl Marx’s premise of religion as the opium of the masses is accepted, then Bitcoin is their crack. To laser-eyed adherents of the ideology, Bitcoin is more than Internet money: It is Freedom, it is Democracy, it is Power, it is Hope, it is Infrastructure, it is Tony Hawk Shredding in a Halfpipe, it is Michael Saylor Bulldozing Millions of Dollars into every Market Dip, it is God itself.
— Michael Saylor (@michael_saylor) June 1, 2021
“If you’re against Bitcoin toxicity, you’re against Bitcoin. And if you’re against Bitcoin, you’re against freedom,” said one panelist.
Underlying all contemporary social, political, and economic upheavals (from intersectionality to right-wing nationalism) is the mania of belief. Belief spreads through social media platforms which are designed for leaders of ideologies to recruit “followers.” Just like Donald Trump used Facebook to inspire a quasi-religious cult (wherein an individual became the basis for a political ideology), cryptocurrency leaders like Michael Saylor and the Winklevoss twins use Twitter to mobilize followers around the religion of Bitcoin; across numerous Telegram chats, smaller religious subsets vie for dominance over whether their crypto alternative is the better movement. Scientology has Tom Cruise, but Bitcoin has Jack Dorsey, who said during the conference, “I don’t think there is anything more important in my lifetime to work on.”
Since Bitcoin’s conception in 2009 by its anonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto, belief in cryptocurrency has been confined mostly to a cult of libertarian-leaning cyberpunks. But with the public’s loss of faith in current monetary policy during the pandemic, Bitcoin maximalism has grown into a mainstream religious movement. As old beliefs are shattered, new ones take hold. Traditional religions are replaced with new secular ones retrofitted for social media, with celebrities as their charismatic leaders.
Belief is a powerful force shaping institutions. And if enough people accept the premise of a belief, the belief becomes reality.
The risk in becoming everything is that Bitcoin becomes nothing.
**Disclosure: The author of this piece owns Bitcoin***