Author Topic: Is Bitcoin A Cult?  (Read 3206 times)

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Travis Patron

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Is Bitcoin A Cult?
« on: July 24, 2016, 03:37:09 PM »
In society today, when we hear the word cult, the hair on the back of our neck stands up and our ears cringe. We quickly want to change the subject because of how negative a connotation the word cult carries with it. Why is this so? How can a word in and of itself be so detested and shunned from our lexicon? Let us explore the word cult.

The word culture comes from the root word cult, and describes a collection of human capacity in the pursuit of betterment for the individual and the whole. Culture is central to the way we view, experience, and engage with all aspects of our lives and the world around us. Thus, even our definitions of culture are shaped by the historical, political, social, and cultural contexts in which we live. (Sorrells, 2013)
More narrowly, the word cult describes a social order which carries deviant beliefs, that is, a group of individuals who operate from a set of practices which violate the conventionally dominant mindset of the surrounding culture. A cult establishes new social norms and practices to operate from, and therefore is seen as deviant until these new social norms are adopted as the dominant belief system. Once this saturation occurs, anything which violates these beliefs is then seen as the new cult. A cult in and of itself is neither good nor evil, but a social order that defies conventionally accepted social order.
Let us begin our analysis with three basic assumptions of a cult:

  • Holds socially deviant beliefs
  • Holds regular, frequent ritual practices
  • Holds their founder as the ideological realization of their socially deviant beliefs

Let us apply this framework to an existing culture: The United States of America.

Do the American people abide by socially deviant beliefs? At the time of its founding, America was based on the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, success is available -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness above all things. Americans subscribe religiously to the notion that it represents the “Land of Opportunity” and that anyone can realize the “American Dream”. This is clearly seen when America is the most overworked culture is the world. At a time when the dominantly held belief was to serve the greater good of the British Empire, these ideas in the 18th century were indeed deviant.

Do the American people engage in regular ritual practices? Every February of the year, Americans drop whatever it was they were doing and gather around to watch the SuperBowl. Not necessarily because of their love for the sport of football, but because it is the American thing to do. Do not get in the way of an American and their SuperBowl time. The SuperBowl is one of the largest ritual practices of a culture on the planet, and it reinforces the beliefs that the social order was founded upon. It draws in an audience from around the world and sensationalizes commercialism and competitiveness. The SuperBowl does indeed represent an American ritual tradition.

Do the American people hold their founders as the ideological realization of their cultural beliefs? The founding fathers of America --  John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington – are held as the epiphany of the belief system which the entire culture is founded upon.

Is America then a cult?

Consider a group of 100 people. 99 of those people are involved with the cult while one person has a different set of beliefs entirely. Would the 99 people of the cult describe themselves as cultists? Or would they view the outsider as having something fundamentally wrong with them and an inferior set of beliefs?

The only criteria to effectively judge a cult by then, is if their belief systems help improve the lives of individuals and the whole. A cult in itself is neither good nor evil, but a social order with deviant beliefs.
The United States of America indeed started as a sort of cult. It still holds deviant beliefs, has ritual traditions, and has the ideology of their ‘father figures’. Only now, it is one which has reached a critical mass where its belief system has become the new social norm. Its belief system is no longer deviant and therefore, everything which violates its norms is the new cult.

So then is bitcoin a cult?

Does the bitcoin community hold deviant beliefs? Anyone in the bitcoin community knows this to be plainly true. There is an underlying, religiously abided to belief that we can create a system using the decentralization potential of bitcoin to build a better world. There also seems to be a deep loathing of the current banking system.

Does the bitcoin community engage in ritual practices? Regularly, and as a scheduled event, the bitcoin community braces itself for a readjustment in the difficulty of the mining reward. The block reward halving represents a ritual tradition within the bitcoin community. Every time the compensation per block of bitcoin is halved, the beliefs of the culture (that of scientific innovation and disruptive competition) are reinforced upon the subscribers.

Does the bitcoin community hold their founder as a sort of religiously actualized father figure? Without a doubt Satoshi Nakamoto is held as the realization of the underlying principles engrained into the bitcoin culture. Satoshi Nakamoto is the oracle upon which the concept of bitcoin was created. It is most interesting to note, that Satoshi has no personal identification and therefore, indirectly upholds the cultural belief of anonymity.

This brings us back to our original question: is bitcoin a cult? To which, the answer is a resounding, yes!

The only question which remains is when it will reach a critical mass and its socially deviant beliefs become the new norm. The bitcoin industry attracts some of the most intelligent and ambitious people in the world. It has the potential to improve the lives of, not just millions, but billions of people!

And that is indeed a worthwhile pursuit.


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Re: Is Bitcoin A Cult?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2016, 03:39:53 PM »
Interesting observations. Apple also started as a cultlike company with Steve Jobs as its founder.

And look how far they've come.