What we can learn from Religion
Different people have different goals for Bitcoin and what constitutes success. If Bitcoin became the single global currency, replaced all fiat and was secured in a decentralized way, I think we can agree that would be pretty successful. Even if bitcoin “only” became a parallel financial system, giving people optionality and keeping the remaining central banks in check, most of us would sign that today. But how do we get there?
A large part of it is simply time and patience. But there are also things that each and every one of us can do to help bitcoin succeed. It starts with thinking about Bitcoin in a certain way. I don’t claim that this way is correct or will appeal to anyone else, but still want to share it because it feels right and has turned on many light bulbs for me.
The premise that I will argue today is: Bitcoin is like a religion. I mean that in two ways.
First, it is like a religion in the sense that you should be able to be left leaning and also be a Bitcoiner, in the same way that you can be left, right or center and be an Atheist, Christian or Muslim. For Bitcoin adoption to break into the mainstream, its ideology needs to be palatable to the large center, not just the Libertarians. Bitcoin itself is not incompatible with much at all except inflation of the money supply and monetary oppression of the individual. And it shouldn’t comment on things outside of its scope.
Second, it is a religion in the sense that money itself is a shared imagination of man, a fiction — that allows coordination on a large scale and offers benefits to whoever believes in it. Bitcoin takes this to the extreme, because unlike gold its properties can be altered at the physical level. Bitcoin literally derives all of its properties from our collective beliefs. It is, what we want it to be.
Historically, the universalizing religions like Christianity, Islam or Buddhism have spread very fast because they recognized the most basic commonality of message. People can worship Jesus Christ no matter if they are sitting in Africa or Asia. Bitcoin’s message at the core should be no more excluding than that. In my opinion, one of the biggest dangers for bitcoin is in becoming a localized religion instead of a universalizing one.
Religions don’t compete with political orientations. They can coexist with them, which gives them a great advantage. Religions only compete with other religions. So what religions does Bitcoin compete with? Nocoinery and Multicoinery.
Nocoinery is the idea that digital assets don’t have value or can never be money. It is the ideologically charged version of Nocoiner-paganism, which could also be described as Precoinery — they simply haven’t learned about Bitcoin yet.
Multicoinery is the idea that we can can constantly come up with new cryptocurrencies and that thinking about them is a better use of our time and ressources than rallying behind Bitcoin.
If Bitcoiners wanted to learn from a universalizing religion, what are the implications for us? It’s simple: when talking about Bitcoin we should look to be as open and apolitical as possible, but intolerant towards the other religions.
To be universalizing, we need to be open to the center based on the core properties that Bitcoin stands for. And we need to be intolerant towards those who try prevent these properties from becoming reality.
Where do we stand today? I worry that Bitcoin is more political than it has to be. Every day, I’m bombarded with messages on Twitter about how Veganism, Keynesianism, Liberalism or Statism are antithetical to Bitcoin. They are not. Vocal minorities are loading up Bitcoin with political statements that are not neccesary to distinguish itself from other religions, and it’s driving out people who potentially agree with Bitcoin’s real message but disagree with these statements.
One could now argue that Bitcoin has never been heterodox and always been a Libertarian/Anarcho-capitalist movement. The reality is that the recent shift of narrative has simply driven out many people who disagreed with the current groupthink. Bitcoin always had a large part of its community gravitating towards it from the MoE and payments point of view, and they were more diverse in their views than the SoV crowd. The set of people who wanted ease of payments on the internet was simply larger than the set who believed in Gold and Austrian Economics.
A second argument that could be made in favor of correlating Bitcoin with these political orientations is that Bitcoin will more easily convert people who already hold these political views. While that is true, it ignores how fringe the aforementioned orientations really are from a global standpoint. Even the largest one, Libertarianism, is an insular concept once you extend your scope outside of the US.
Now personally I am convinced that the SoV-first approach to scaling is correct, but I am worried about the additional costs incurred to the network by adherence to a whole host of other politically affiliated concepts of the gold crowd. Very good examples are Austrianism, Carnivorism, Libertarianism or gun rights. In a way, there are parties who piggyback on Bitcoin’s core message and popularity to further their own political agendas which, to outsiders, feel very insular.
When I said we need to be intolerant towards other religions, that intolerance needs to be framed properly and based on the size of the threat as well as the ability to convert. Compared to Multicoiners, Nocoiners and especially Precoiners, are a larger group of people that we are also better equipped to convince. So the rational thing to do would be to focus a lot more on them and stop “taking the bait” from crowds that are both small and hard to convince.
In summary, there are many similarities between Bitcoin and the universalizing religions, and much for Bitcoin to learn from them. It indicates that we should go out of our way to talk to Precoiners instead of Multicoiners. When talking about Bitcoin, we want to be open and apolitical and instead emphasize Bitcoin’s core message: no more debasement of our money and monetary freedom for everyone — no matter what else you believe in.