Bitcoiners are a passionate bunch - nobody disagrees with that.
But is Bitcoin a cult?
It is a question to consider, as cults can be some of the most damaging organizations to human growth and development.
I speak from experience, as I spent the first three and a half decades in the Jehovah’s Witness cult. It took a full decade of deprogramming, therapy, and finally just getting out into the “regular world” before I felt whole.
I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, but there are of course things that can be taken from that time which help me in life now.
One benefit is being able to size up anything in a few minutes and know if it is utter bullshit.
Another is knowing when you have been working at something for a while and realizing its not generating a return. Instead of plowing away endlessly, understanding "sunk cost fallacy" can get you out quickly without wasting too much time or money.
People think cults can only be religious, there are many forms a high-control group can take.
Commercial cults, self help cults, psychotherapy cults and many random small cults are part of our modern world.
So it would be wise to consider if Bitcoin is a cult that exerts undue influence on you!
An Overview of How Cults Control People
For this article, I will rely on the BITE framework created by one of the foremost experts on cults --Dr. Steve Hassan.
In his book Combatting Cult Mind Control, Hassan explains that cults prey upon their members and influence them in various ways - remembered with the acronym B.I.T.E.
The BITE model revolves around controlling four aspects of an individual’s personality:
Generally, all cults use these control mechanisms to one extent or another, but will really push one or two of them on the membership in an extreme manner.
I’ll compare my experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness to my experiences as a Bitcoiner to determine if this new money is dangerous to the masses!
Behavioral Control - Be a Good Boy!
Many cults control behavior by having their members live together in isolation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were different in that they operate out among society, so many immediately reject the idea that they could be a cult. Witnesses work side-by-side in many industries, you've probably worked with a few along the way.
But it isn’t where you physically live, it is how your behavior is controlled.
Here are a few ways I was expected to behave day-to-day.
- Meet several times a week with other JWs to study Watchtower literature
- Preach weekly to others, if not more often
- Celebration of holidays was prohibited. Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and 4th of July all NOT ALLOWED
- Dress and grooming was expected to be extremely conservative
- Sex was only allowed among married couples (no same-sex marriage either)
- Dependency and obedience on local leaders and Watchtower direction was required
- Punishments doled out for breaking rules, the greatest being disfellowshipping. All members were required to shun those who were disfellowshipped.
This list could cover pages beyond just these bullet points, but you get the point.
The life of the average JW is highly regulated, other activities that are completely accepted in society (like attending college) would be frowned upon and gossiped about among the members.
With Bitcoin, there are certainly behaviors that are encouraged. I generally find them to be a net positive.
Let's look at a few.
- Lowering time preference - As an American, I developed a high time preference over my adult life. I wasn’t always responsible with debt, I never went to college, I had piss-poor health for many years, and I generally wanted things sooner rather than later.
- Don’t Trust, Verify - Bitcoin advocates encourage newcomers to find fault with their thesis, with the Bitcoin code and with what we’ve been told from the authorities about money. They encourage action based on taking in all of the information, not just what is approved of by the media or the government.
- Educate when possible - Once you know about Bitcoin, you don’t keep it to yourself. “Orange Pilling” is encouraged, as Bitcoin is a neutral protocol with no CEO, no marketing department, and no leader. Thus, it is the responsibility of each person to advocate for a new type of money that reduces dependency on the State and encourages self-reliance
The difference is stark.
With the Witnesses, certain behaviors were randomly demonized while others were promoted to further cult goals. Non compliance would result in penalties from cult leadership.
With Bitcoin, favorable behavior is naturally encouraged based on learning more about Bitcoin and the current monetary system.
At no point however is anyone coerced, people may choose to what extent they support the protocol - or opt out completely.
Information Control - Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!
Many have asked me why I stayed in the JW cult when I had the choice to leave as a young adult. I generally come back to the fact that I didn't know any better…
I simply had limited information to work with.
While JWs are out and about in society, they do an absolutely masterful job of keeping a lid on what their members take in when it comes to information.
Fearmongering newscasts are allowed, as these reinforce the idea that this world is horrible and God's day of destruction (Armageddon) will start any day now.
ANYTHING critical of the Watchtower or Jehovah's Witness doctrine is strictly prohibited.
All books, blog posts, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, and anything else you can think of that offer opposing information is labelled as “APOSTATE”.
Apostates are the biggest boogeyman ever created in the eyes of a Jehovah’s Witness.
This places an effective, self-regulating filter on just about every piece of content they come across. Anything out of the norm is immediately dismissed or ignored as being “apostate” and thus its hard to reach them.
On the flip side, Watchtower headquarters pumps out propaganda in the form of magazines, books, videos and speeches from leadership that must be consumed by the average JW, daily if at all possible.
This leads to thought patterns being reinforced over time.
Brainwashing is the term, or mind control if you’re using politically correct terms.
What about Bitcoin, is information controlled? Or is information critical of Bitcoin suppressed?
Since there is no Bitcoin CEO, or Bitcoin Marketing Director, or Bitcoin Public Relations firm, it is truly a free for all out there when it comes to the dissemination of information. This means each person can take in the information he finds relevant, and then decide whether to allocate some of his fiat currency into Bitcoin.
There are really no rules, it is a marketplace of ideas - good ones WIN.
Bitcoiners are of course going to share the reasons why they think you should have some. But if you do not want to participate, you don’t have to. If you want to argue monetary policy with a Bitcoiner, there are tens of thousands available on Twitter.
This leads to a sharpening of ideas, nothing is accepted as true without evidence to back it up.
Bitcoin is certainly not cult-like when it comes to controlling information.
Everything is vetted by millions of eyes everyday in Bitcoin.
Thought Control - Minding Your Gray Matter
As a Jehovah's Witness, I was constantly reminded that I was imperfect because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate some fruit in the Garden of Eden 6,000 years ago.
No matter how many things I did in my behavior to support the cult, I was constantly reminded that my thoughts were impure and I was imperfect. I was to remain vigilant about my thinking at all times in order to please God, and not be taken into Satan’s world.
This created an “Us vs Them” mentality.
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that only they will survive the supposed upcoming battle of Armageddon, there was constant pressure to filter out any thinking of the world - whether it be political, educational or religious ideology that differed from what was taught from leadership.
This led to a lot of “cognitive dissonance” which in simple terms is this:
Attempting to hold two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.
This is a constant grind on the mind.
Eventually, one has to accept the Witness line of thinking whole-heartedly and completely dismiss all other thoughts that are contrary.
For many this is impossible, the dam finally breaks and the individual finally drinks from the well of information that argues against Watchtower propaganda. These individuals quickly exit the cult once they realize they've been lied to for many years.
With Bitcoin, thought control is virtually non-existent.
Bitcoin advocates are presenting a new way of thinking about money. They rightfully point out the faults in fiat money, gold and any other money that's been tried. If the argument is strong, they may convince a newbie to allocate a little and continue learning more.
While Bitcoiners are thoroughly convinced they have found the solution, there is no attempt to force others to THINK the same way, as that is impossible considering the starting point was a mere 15 years ago.
In reality, the thought control Bitcoiners are fighting against comes from government - as their MONOPOLY on money production is an entrenched mind-virus in academia.
Emotional Control - Managing Your Feelings Everyday
As a Jehovah's Witness, several techniques were employed to keep my emotions moving in the way Watchtower found acceptable.
Foremost among these was the tool of GUILT.
I was constantly berated as a sinner, told I wasn't a good person, and that I had to constantly earn my salvation as Jehovah could revoke it at any given moment.
This was reinforced by the threat of Armageddon, where God would destroy all wrongdoers, even Jehovah's Witnesses if they were on the wrong side of the fence on that future day.
Taking time away from Witness activities was described as "selfish" and any problems I encountered were always my fault - payback for not "doing enough" for the Watchtower and their God.
On the other hand, the Witnesses employed the technique of "love bombing" as a reinforcement for good behavior.
If a child commented at a church service, or gave his first Bible reading, he would receive over-the-top praise from other members when the service ended.
Newcomers and interested ones in attendance for the first time would also be "love bombed" by several members, expressing interest in them and and their lives to the point where the fakery was often spotted by the visiting individual.
These techniques were designed to trigger emotional "highs" in members. Accomplishing more on behalf of the cult would result in more praise as they attainted titles and prominence in the organization.
Titles like Pioneer, Elder, Bethelite, Ministerial Servant, Publisher, Circuit Overseer, and Governing Body member were given out as emotional carrots, letting others know exactly the status of each Jehovah's Witness.
This led to the ego being fed, another emotional high for those in the religion.
Bitcoin will put you through a different emotional ride, but generally these are traced back to the individual and how they interact with the protocol.
Thus, emotional CONTROL is something you learn individually from Bitcoin, not something impressed upon you from the outside by other Bitcoiners or Bitcoin itself.
Here's an example –
Many enter Bitcoin with bad habits from the fiat world. One such habit is gambling - I personally gambled on lottery tickets and sports once I got out of the Witness religion, but before I began buying Bitcoin.
When someone gambles, they get an emotional high (or low) depending on the outcome.
Your brain gets used to this, and in time it really doesn't rationally calculate the losses, it just likes that FEELING that comes along with the chance to make some easy money.
As I began to accumulate Bitcoin, I was finally able to look rationally at my gambling.
Was it worth it to wager $20 on an NFL game with 50/50 odds (actually lower since the "vig" must be paid) or should I just throw that money into Bitcoin and wait?
Eventually the emotions that came from betting were banished.
I KNEW that in 10 or 20 years, my $20 placed carefully into Bitcoin would be FAR MORE VALUABLE than the passing emotional "hit" that comes from gambling on a game.
Bitcoin is an emotional "forcing function" toward rational, calculated savings.
The lack of savings is what has the world in this mess right now. As time goes by the emotional highs distributed by fiat money will be overcome by the rational calculations of billions putting their labor into hard money - Bitcoin!
Bitcoin is NOT a Cult!
Hopefully some of this gives the world some perspective on what cults are about and how they operate.
CONTROL is at the heart of all cults - influencing their members to think, behave and act in a way that leadership authorizes. Taking away their emotional guidance system and denying people information are key facets of cult control as well.
FREEDOM is at the heart of Bitcoin, a tool for empowerment and growth.
The option is always there to come and go as you please.
Of course Bitcoiners will continue to passionately point out the consequences of ignoring this discovery, but the option to own Bitcoin and benefit from it will always remain the choice of the individual.