Is Bitcoin a Religion?

June 25, 2015 10:26 PM UTC

A recent article by Filip Martinka delivers a damning characterization of the cryptocurrency world: we are a bunch of cultists, acting against our self-interest, religiously promoting something and trying to draw others into it as a means to expand its influence.

The article takes the typical characteristics of a cult and breaks them down alongside the characteristics of Bitcoiners. Here are some of the things that, according to Martinka, make us cultists:

  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

These are characteristics of a cult that were written by Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. Martinka actually breaks down every one of the characteristics outlined by the doctors, and in some cases very weakly ascribes these attributes to cryptocurrency, while in others, it is disturbingly accurate.

An example of his weak reasoning comes here:

Heavy Bitcoin activism has the potential to disrupt familial and other relationships.

Like, what? Here I am, a full-time writer for one of the premier cryptocurrency websites, and by having this job, I spend a significant amount more time with my family than I would otherwise. In large part, I owe this to the community who patronizes the site and makes us an attractive place to advertise. This sort of reasoning just doesn’t stand up, and feels more like checking a box than it does actual reasoned argument.

Is Activism Religious?

Then again, I don’t much consider myself a Bitcoin activist. I probably use Bitcoin more than many people who do, but nonetheless, it doesn’t matter to me if Bitcoin is accepted by the masses or not. I think it would benefit a lot of people in a lot of ways, but it’s not something I talk to my best friend about during our frequent phone conversations. Sometimes he asks about it, and I tell him what I know. And yes, if he’d took my advice a a couple months ago and bought at those all-time lows, he’d have realized some gains this week. But it’s not as if I feel that he was somehow immoral or unjust by not taking the risk. I was just trying to help him further maximize his unexpected windfall money.

In other parts, Martinka seems spot on, though the behavior he describes isn’t just with the “alt coin” communities.

This is usually only seen in scamcoin a.k.a shitcoin communities. Loyal members are suddenly confronted with failure by the project, a loss of funds, and character assassination of their leader. Paradoxically, these members will invest MORE money. It takes an incredibly long time for these individuals to recover.

I use quotes here because I’m tired of calling them that. They are cryptocurrencies, whether they succeed or not. By calling them alt coins, you willfully reduce them to what they too often become – scams to earn Bitcoin. You can keep all that network effect and other under-educated nonsense to yourself. Talk to me about network effect the next time you log in to MySpace or use Yahoo! Search, both of which had more than their share of it when they were displaced.

Those cats from the Nakamoto Institute and other bag holders who think they can go around telling us that Bitcoin is the one true path, they’re more representative of the behavior Martinka describes than are those who are willing to experiment. They are equally as dismissive of something like Darkcoin as they are something like BitcoinDark, and that is telling.

In any case, I don’t think Bitcoin is a religion. It’s not something people are born into, for one, which is a hallmark of any religion. It’s not something that requires worship, for another. It is something which requires critical thought, but it’s the only religion I’ve ever seen without a single leader, but instead numerous people who lead in different directions. At present it is facing a schism which could be detrimental to its future. And that bit about mining being some form of prayer was just ridiculous.

What do you think?

Images from Shutterstock.

Last modified: August 8, 2020 6:22 PM UTC


P. H. Madore has written for CCN since 2014. Please send breaking news tips or requests for investigation to He lives in Maine, USA. A single father of four young children, he does not discourage financial donations, provided they do not come with strings attached.