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Bitcoin As A Divine Idea
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The East Java branch of one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has issued a Fatwa deeming the use of cryptocurrency ‘haram’, or forbidden, under Islamic law.
A Fatwa is a nonbinding legal opinion on Islamic law, which is reached through a discussion called a bahtsul masail. Representatives from the Nahdlatul Ulama (PCNU) Branch Management and several Islamic boarding schools throughout East Java attended the bahtsul masail.
Interest in cryptocurrency has surged in Indonesia over the past year. Earlier this month, a report by Coinformant reported that Indonesia saw a massive 1,772% increase in the number of people engaging with articles about crypto during 2021.
Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world, and has a booming crypto industry. According to the Indonesian Trade Ministry, the nation had around 6.5 million crypto investors by May this year, overshadowing the 5.7 million retail investors registered with the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX).
An announcement published on the website of the East Java Nahdlatul Ulama branch on October 24, quotes chairman Kiai Azizi Chasbullah as saying:
“The participants of the bahtsul masail have the view that although the government recognises cryptocurrency as a commodity, it cannot be legalized under Islamic sharia law.”
The group came to the conclusion that cryptocurrency was deemed haram because it involves too much speculation, and therefore can’t be used as a legitimate investment.
“Based on several considerations, including the prevalence of fraud, it is considered unlawful,” said a representative from the Lirboyo Islamic Boarding School, Kediri.
Some Muslim scholars believe that cryptocurrency is similar to gambling, which is prohibited under Islamic religious law. However, opinions vary and other Islamic organizations around the world say that Islamic law permits cryptocurrency.
Last year the Malaysian authority that oversees compliance with Islamic law in finance announced that it would permit digital asset trading.
There are also efforts currently underway in Australia to build the world’s first Sharia-guided decentralized finance (DeFi) platform to navigate a course between the advantages of DeFi and the beliefs of Islamic finance.
Read more: Report: Indonesia leads global surge in interest in crypto
In September, the Minister of Trade Muhammad Luthfi told local media that Indonesia didn’t plan to follow China’s footsteps and impose a ban on cryptocurrency transactions, mining or trading.
The Ottoman suppression of the printing press is a poster child case of intellectual stagnation in the Muslim world. Although there was no outright ban, there is no denying of a massively missed opportunity here: A civilization’s failure to adopt a groundbreaking technological change happening right next door. In its golden age, this same civilization that gave the world universities and hospitals, optics and algebra, even a precursor to the printing press itself, got so left behind in the later acceptance of technology, that its very own holy book, the Quran, waited for its first mass publication almost 300 years after Johannes Gutenberg chugged out the printed Bible.
But Islam’s Genesis Block was entirely different in character: A spirited but sundry assemblage of women and men whose most remarkable trait was their openness to new ideas. The idea of one God in a multitude of divine contenders. The idea of one bitcoin in a multitude of shitcoins … oops… sorry… mixing up my chronology! So anyway, this fraternity of early Islam, along with its keen aspiration of ushering in a just social and economic order, is also remarkable in a novel way for its time: It represents a death cross of reason’s moving average overtaking that of intuition in religious history. Bringing intellectual inquiry at par with mystical experience, it paved the way for its scions to delve into scientific skepticism, empiricism and experimental inquiry, with Robert Briffault going so far as to say that “Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and method.”
But eventually, the music stopped, and the market corrected! There are many explanations for the downfall, most of them partially true, spanning decades and centuries, but if we want to point fingers, as human nature dictates, at some symbolic event, then it must be the Mongol destruction of the House of Wisdom, #SackOfBaghdad. In the age of manuscripts, so many books from Baghdad’s libraries were flung into the Tigris that a horse could walk across on them and the river ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs.
As the Muslim Ummah lost so many intellectuals and intellectual capital in this tumultuous period, its reaction has been, (understandably), like that of an intern finding herself in control of mission critical servers, where all the senior sys admins suddenly stepped down, died or disappeared. Your best reaction is this: I’m not touching this system, and the only commands I’ll ever execute are those handed down by the four illustrious system admins — founders of the established schools of jurisprudence.
And so Islamic scholarship for hundreds of years has been in a maintenance mode. In Pakistan alone, over 12,000 Madrasa routinely teach the rules and regulations of exchanging gold and silver, centuries after its daily use has been replaced by fiat.
But herein lies a wonderful irony. This code-freeze on innovation, which we otherwise disapprove of, did work to an extent as it was intended: It protected the core principles from being callously compromised or deliberately diluted in the hands of opportunists. Just like the extra caution and consensus in changing the U.S. constitution protected the principles of freedom and equality enshrined in it: Islamic law, too, enshrined core financial principles, that have been a thorn on the side of would-be reformers attempting to legalize fiat and modern banking in the name of Islamic Finance. The 12,000 semi-literate Madrasa students, parroting the provisions of the fair exchange of gold and silver from a 17th century syllabus citing a 9th century scholar, unwittingly become more correct than a Harvard doctorate in finance indoctrinated in the misguided larceny of fiat money! All because Muhammad ﷺ mandated sound money, just like Mises and Hayek after him, a tenet immutably crystallized in Fiqh — Islamic Jurisprudence.
A business man himself, the Prophet of Islam possessed a sharp acumen for economics and finance. In modern parlance, he quickly rose the corporate ladder to become one of the youngest CEOs of his time tasked with turning around the failing business empire of the urbane female entrepreneur, Khadija. Impressed with the Prophet’s personality, Khadija quickly proposed to him, creating a power couple that changed the course of history.
Just like Jesus turned out the money-lenders from the Second Temple, the Prophet of Islam, too, had a disdain for usury and outlawed most of the accompanying capitalist machinations, that contribute to the gross wealth disparities like 10% owning 76% of the assets. So he created some fundamental rules that constitute the bedrock of Islamic financial principles:
These prohibitions are strong enough in Islamic theology that anyone who violates them is technically, “at war with Allah and his Prophet.” Which is why the Madrasa’s syllabus clings to “nature’s money” (Thaman-e-Khalqi): gold and silver.
But of course, big governments, Muslim or otherwise, are a chip off the same block: Self-interest reigns supreme over ethical principles. In Pakistan alone, the religious case against fiat banking has been delayed and obstructed for over 40 years in the courts. The politics of deficit financing are so attractive that no one wants to surrender this magical money making wand. Voldemorts, all of them!
In spite of these prohibitions, and in countries where religion dominates social values, Muslims still grew comfortable with paper money because it initially disguised itself as “warehouse receipts for gold” which duped the scholars into permitting it, but the jurisprudence failed to catch up with the subsequent thinning of this asset backing into its current meaningless extent.
As the domino roll of national independences took place, four different threads of activity around banking spread in Muslim countries.
Fiat money and its permissibility can be viewed through an important concept in Islamic theology, the Maqasid-e-Shariah: the goals or purpose of Shariah law. To illustrate this with a controversial example, consider a Shariah law which says you cannot punish a man or woman for adultery, unless you bring four eye witnesses to the sexual act (which is normally impossible). While Islam abhors adultery, the Maqasid is an attempt by scholars to understand why, instead of having a law that easily and swiftly punishes it, there exists one that makes it practically impossible to prosecute. They rationalized that it must be to shield people’s privacy and one-off slipups from society’s nosy interference and appetite for punishment. According to Muhammad Asad, “… to make proof of adultery dependent on a voluntary, faith-inspired confession of the guilty parties themselves.” So the Maqasid points to some socially valuable goal that the law intends to achieve.
The rationale of the financial laws of Shariah are similarly explained in terms of their goals: a just distribution of wealth, a money free from devaluation, a business contract free from usurious exploitation, and a regulatory regime that increases people’s wealth and well-being. Through a very elementary intuition, it is obvious that fiat currencies violate this principle of honesty and justice in the society: Money issuers steal the purchasing power of the people and devalue their money. To put a formal Quranic stamp to this reasoning, we can take verse 3:75, “There are some among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who, if entrusted with a stack of gold, will readily return it.” The modern Islamic bank, if entrusted with money equivalent to a stack of gold, returns you only 90% of its worth in purchasing power, owing to inflationary erosion, thus it’s part of a system that clearly violates the Maqasid.
Islamic banks have thus thoroughly failed to espouse the core principle of risk sharing and eliminating interest (since interest exists in the very issuance process of the money they are built on). The only real Islamic alternative ever proposed was the Gold Dinar Movement. Starting in parallel (and in many respects earlier) than Islamic banking, (with the first modern Dinar minted in 1992), it was incisively accurate in its assessment and proposed remedy to the money problem: “The Return to the Gold Dinar.” This was an earlier time, when the golden tool in the fight against fiat was literally gold, which was then popularized by Austrian economics, advocated by upright leaders like Ron Paul, and adopted by grassroots activists like Bernard von NotHaus. The Muslim world saw its own spate of activism for sound money, led by its most vocal proponent, Umar Vadillo, and associated initiatives like Wakala Nusantara, Dinar First and my own Dinar Wakala. The Kelantan State government’s launch of Gold Dinar was our own El Zonte moment, full of euphoria and promise that made waves globally. The passion and courage of this vibrant lot of Warrior Sufis represented the best of modern-day Muslims: Profoundly knowledgeable people, engaged in grassroots activism, to fix the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world.
However, the primary strength of gold, its physical indestructibility, came in the way of its adoption: Logistic and regulatory hindrances prevented free flow of physical gold coins across national boundaries. In the words of its founder, Shaykh Abdalqadir, “The defense mechanisms of today’s late capitalism and its crisis management surrounding the buying, moving and minting of gold have surrounded it with prohibitive pricing and taxation.” It continues to serve as a galvanizing symbol of the fight against Riba, but making it a practical inflationary hedge, or a broader Ummah-level movement for sound money, proved an elusive goal.
Without the Gold Dinar, the horizon seemed all but bleak, except that a glimmer of hope came from the most unexpected of places: Where scholars, economists and revolutionaries had failed, nerds succeeded!
Enter Emir Satoshi!
For us in the Gold Dinar Movement, Bitcoiners are our brothers in arms: fighting the same enemy, securing the same goal. This is what I have always advocated to my fellow activists in the dinar movement, from as far back as 2012.
Our Prophetﷺ, as well as the Rashidun Caliphs, never debased money, nor profited from seigniorage, but gave us the right to choose our own mediums of exchange. This is fundamentally antithetical to the monstrosity of legal tender laws, which Islamic scholars have been duped into legitimizing under various pretexts (highlighting the need for increased financial literacy in this lot). This freedom to choose a currency constitutes the common ground that both us and the Bitcoiners can rally around together.
“The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust,” writes Satoshi. He recognized the problem with fiat and set out to fix it with Bitcoin, a miraculous epiphany that has let loose this growing, global band of fervid, somewhat bumptious Maximalists, as similar in essence and ethos to us, as they look different in appearance. I see Bitcoiners, not only in their pluck and guile, but also in the sly ingenuity of their weapon of choice, as nothing less than a modern-day David taking on the Goliath of traditional banking!
From a Muslim perspective, the operating verse of the Quran in critique of the Bitcoin movement becomes 49:13, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware.” In the realm of monetary matters, the most righteous and noble are those who support sound money. It is appropriate that Allah stresses his own divine attributes in the verse, as a warning that our religiously colored conception of righteousness may not necessarily be the same as that of the knowing, the aware. (The literal term Taqwa, means something that protects you from the wrath of God.) And to the best of my belief, protecting and uplifting the poor, the downtrodden from the entrapments of a prejudiced financial system is surely a winner with the God of Abraham!
We Muslims had set out to establish a just and fair society, and for some time, to quote David Graeber, succeeded: “Once freed from its ancient scourges of debt and slavery, the local bazaar had become, for most, not a place of moral danger, but the very opposite: the highest expression of the human freedom and communal solidarity, and thus to be protected assiduously from state intrusion.” But gradually, as our political and intellectual leadership in the world waned, we now find ourselves economically bankrupt, submerged in a rigged financial system, and enslaved to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A major reason for this impoverishment was the widening gap of modern knowledge. The following vicious cycle of three circularly dependent factors is another way of modeling our current reality:
It is the standard cycle of poverty played out at a macro scale, which many competing power bases believe they can break. The military, the Mullahs, and the Liberals, far away, even the CIA has prescriptions on how to solve our problems. But such temporary political and economic interventions bear no lasting results, since nations are built by worthy men and women, over a span of many years, who, given a free and peaceful environment, fall back on their innate drive for excellence to create a better world.
It is the job of the revolutionary and his meteoric jolt, or at a smaller scale, your social entrepreneur giving a small push, that breaks a segment of society free from this vicious cycle: A closed ecosystem of wealth circulation, comprising of learned individuals, equipped with better technology and empowered with more capital, shielded from outside influence, and stabilized by a fair social contract, to launch the virtuous symbiosis of economic prosperity and human development which prop each other to newer heights.
This break can start in many ways: a national independence, some strong leadership, or in case of Islam, the founding of a new religion. Islam’s own trajectory gives us a generalized three-stage pattern on which any revolution can be modeled, an excellent blueprint for our bitcoin adoption.
We in the Gold Dinar Movement believed that the break in this vicious cycle will come from financial empowerment: When Muslim people and governments adopt sound money, free from the shackles of the IMF, it will allow our bankrupt economies to manage enough disposable income that can be invested in other avenues in society, putting us on a path to progress and human development. Gold would bring back the Golden Age, producing men and women who are worth their weight in gold!
But it could not. Let me explain why, and how bitcoin makes it possible.
Following our three-stage model of a revolution, let’s review how bitcoin resolves the challenges of each step.
The common man, humble about his knowledge of finance, expects, like John Galbraith remarked, a “deeper mystery to the process of money creation.” But which really is so simple, he goes on, that “the mind is repelled.”
But the chasm in traditional and modern education keeps our scholars from being able to religiously evaluate the fiat system, for which they need three vital credentials: a traditional Mufti qualification, specialized research in the Fiqh of Muamalat, and a study of modern economics. Only a handful achieve this, like the globally revered Usmani, who become thought leaders in Islamic finance: The rest take the easy way out and follow what they posit. I once asked a certified Shariah advisor on LinkedIn, if he knew what fractional reserve banking meant. I expected some abstruse, rule-bending justification for it but was taken aback by his honest admission that he simply didn’t know what it was!
So the first challenge was to educate both the people and the scholars about the fiat system. Then to enlist serious academic and industry practitioners to devise a working alternative based on gold and silver. Then to have its demand trickle down into the masses to eventually morph into enough political pressure for the government to adopt it, much to its own detriment. Highly unlikely.
Except that with bitcoin, educating the people now becomes much more focused and result oriented. The wider goal of educating people about finance and economics remains indispensable in both gold and Bitcoin-based sound money solutions. But with bitcoin, we don’t have to wait for a third-world academia and archaic-minded scholars to sell the solution to an unwilling government: We take the narrative, and the prerogative of action, back from them. We go tactical, orange pill the masses with an Urdu translation of the bitcoin standard, and focus on what is minimally essential to achieve within our means: Teaching Muggles… sorry…. No-coiners, the very basics of money mechanics, the role of bitcoin in our strategic response, and the know-how to stack satoshis in a cold wallet! The rest will follow!
Coming to think of it, my initial printing press analogy is poignantly relevant. The press encapsulated years of knowledge in a simple package easily disseminated to thousands, which could have overcome our knowledge gap had we adopted it earlier. Bitcoin, too, encapsulates the quintessential wisdom of centuries of humanity’s experience in what constitutes good money and allows it to be spread easily across the world. It is both knowledge, and a tool crafted out of that knowledge. If we miss the boat on it, we will not only lose to “usury capitalism,” but the Bitcoin movement, too, will be deprived of huge potential support from a quarter of the world population. We must join the rest of humanity in a last ditch attempt at wealth equality.
After educating people about money mechanics and bitcoin, the second step is the Hejira, our separation from the existing system.
An Islamic scholar, Abdassamad Clarke defined “usury capital,” as “the use of capital that is both generated by usury and operated according to usurious principles, which permits a tiny clique of individuals, by the principle of fiat money amplified by leverage, to wield extraordinary power and accumulate unheard of wealth in such a manner as to subject the rest of humanity as menial servants in their project of self-enrichment, whether in the tyrannies of the East or the so-called free-market capitalism of the West.”
The fundamental philosophical difference between Islamic and Western economics is how we view interest. Islam holds firm to the classical Judeo-Christian prohibition, believing that the time value of money is more fairly accounted for in equity finance style risk sharing of the invested capital, instead of a guaranteed return favoring the capitalist. Among other things, its side effect is prohibiting both the monetizing of our “future income” to issue fiat, and prohibiting the money-multiplier effect of fractional reserve, through the rulings of Riba, Bai-al-Dain and Bai-al-Madum.
Bitcoiners and libertarians rely on an entirely different philosophical foundation to reach partially the same conclusion in regards to fiat, that it’s perverse, unjust and socially destructive.
The end goal for both is the same: To separate ourselves from the fiat system and carve out an entirely new, independent financial system: The original idea of decentralized finance (DeFi)!
Unfortunately, the bubble effect we so dislike in TradFi — traditional finance — is now itself widespread in the non-Bitcoin crypto world, what Ellen Farrington cites as the immense amount of “rehypothecation, leverage, and securitization,” which if misused can cause systemic risks that affect everyone. The practical reality of contemporary DeFi in the non-Bitcoin world is quite far from its theoretical goal. Looking at this aspect of “crypto,” some Islamic scholars took the liberty of invoking the gambling prohibition clause, something whose motivation we can sympathize with, even though we disagree with the conclusion.
A lack of regulation at the administrative level cannot be countered by religious pronunciation of Haram status. It’s kind of like declaring cars as Islamically forbidden, merely because some people are driving them too fast and killing others. But presently, we are far less interested in how scholars view “crypto” than we are regarding bitcoin. The DeFi world’s shiny new investments offering unsustainable returns, its shady ICOs and the casino-like frenzy and get-rich-quick dreams of novice retail investors are far removed from what we advocate, from what we are daring to call a second chance for the Muslim world: A Bitcoin-based sound money adoption as a medium of exchange and store of value!
But what is nevertheless commendable in the crypto world (led, of course, by Bitcoin) is the attempt to create this entirely new, independent miniverse of alternative, decentralized finance, isolated from the existing system. Building and expanding this decentralization, based on Bitcoin, is the essence of the second step of our revolutionary blueprint: the Hejira. Migrating from the old to the new. As Iqbal would have said, “Blow away this transitory world, and build a new one from its ashes” — khakastar se aap apna jahan paida karay.
The only serious prior attempt for sound money among Muslims was the Dinar movement. But it only works in a physical jurisdiction: Where to mint, where to store, how to transport, how to coordinate electronic payments, how to deal with banking regulations, taxes and government interference? Theoretically, it was possible to instantiate an entirely independent ecosystem of issuance, storage, transport and trade using gold, but real progress on it was very slow.
At the same time, the Bitcoin ecosystem has matured so much to be classifiable as an independent and isolated system, free from all interference from legacy finance. The Core Bitcoin Timechain, Lightning and Layer 2 smart contract solutions, and the globally distributed miner, node operator and supporter community, all combine to form a platform on which we can build and experiment with truly Islamic financial contracts of the form that are not possible with TradFi.
In this ecosystem, we can resuscitate Islamic social and financial institutions like the Bait-ul-Maal, the Suq, the Waqf, the Guilds, the Hawala, the Wahdiya, the Qirad and the Musharaka, free from the restrictions of any government, securities commission or central bank.
And once this isolated system is deployed, we need to protect it.
A story is told in Islamic lore, that when Abu Dharr Ghifari came looking to meet the Prophet, Ali told him to walk a few paces behind him, and if he senses anyone suspicious he will stoop down to tie his shoelaces and Abu Dharr should continue walking ahead. Kind of like a coinjoin to obfuscate where he was actually going. When you are small, you must remain in stealth mode and operate under the radar. Later on, when the small state of early Islam was established in a nearby city, it needed a number of armed conflicts to defend itself from being nipped in the bud!
Deploying a sound money system, too, may need a precarious window in which the sapling would need fierce protection before it grows into a tree. The hellacious powers issuing the yuans and dollars of the world are way too formidable for any third-world nation state to get away with a head-on collision. In fact, we cannot even withstand assaults from individual speculators, let alone a concerted effort by the global financial cabal to preserve its status quo. El Salvador and the like are definitely interesting trailblazers to watch out for here, but it is too early to tell.
If a sufficient number of first-world citizens band together to defy their government in adoption of sound money, the response of fiat-powered regimes would (probably) be much more restrained in handling them versus some rogue state from a third-world country attempting to defy the dominant currency. I was told by a prominent Islamic banker that when Mahatir toyed with the idea, he was sent a very stern signal to “cease and desist” by the powers that be!
So, can a Muslim government adopt and get away with either the dinar or bitcoin? I believe only in the latter. Only bitcoin has the necessary technological edge in terms of its unstoppability and indestructibility that can substitute for the need of a national military power strong enough to protect a traditional sound money built on gold.
But many Islamic revivalists believe otherwise and their goal is usually larger in scope than financial reform alone. It is a more holistic quest to resuscitate the political, social and legal structures of precolonial Islamic governments. Encouraged by the spectacular rise of early Islam that dared challenge superior powers like Byzantine and Sassanids, they believe it possible to recreate the traditional theocracy along similar lines, one of whose side effects would be to eradicate fiat currency also. Such ambitious projects downplay the urgency of fixing our financial system: No need to separately struggle for it if it comes as a natural corollary to the larger political renaissance.
Now the specter of such pan-Islamic revival has been thoroughly demonized in Western imagination, owing from our own side to violent extremism, owing from their side to a deep-rooted Islamophobia, and owing generally to ideas (or realities?) like the clash of civilizations. But my Bitcoiner friends — whose libertarian ethos is so refined to even self-censure the slightist hint of authoritarian enforcement in El Salvador’s legal tender adoption of bitcoin — will surely agree that it is entirely within the rights of the Muslim world to voluntarily experiment, on their land, with whatever form of government they fancy: caliphates, sultanates or kingdoms!
But the reality of this dream in the minds of the majority of modern Muslims is quite different from what the world perceives. The moderate Muslim just wants Islamic principles to be the guiding source of their political and social order. But the strength of this desire is often encashed by opportunists, resulting in two recent distorted models of political Islam:
1.The Iranian model: Somewhat broad-based and sustainable but toothless and symbolic. They are the political twins of Islamic banks, offering no real change to the common man, except moral policing. Financially, there even exists the oxymoronic Central Bank of the Islamic Republic. Why would you have an Islamic bank if you were truly an Islamic republic?
2. Second, is the Taliban and ISIS model: Narrow-based, extremist and unsustainable, divorced from the comity of nations. ISIS did reportedly issue the Gold Dinar but to no one’s avail, except perhaps as a recruitment propaganda. News out of Kabul promises a more restrained and balanced government this time around, but is it a genuine change of heart or just political expediency?
So, while the Muslim world waits for a true Islamic reformation, and the world holds its breath on how the next such attempt turns out, my issue with this ubiquitous political quest in the Muslim imagination is just NGMI — it’s not gonna make it! We can’t stall the effort of immediate financial reform on some future promise of a bigger change happening to facilitate it. As an Urdu saying goes, na nau munn tayl hoe ga, na Radha naachay gi: Neither shall the king be able to provision nine gallons of lamp oil, and nor will the stage ever be lit enough for his dancing girl, Radha, to perform!
Nevertheless, assuming for a moment that a mature, viable, modern Islamic government does get established by some geopolitical miracle, faithful to Islam’s core tenets, and broad-based in popular support, the next and more pertinent question becomes: Will it have sufficient political, and if necessary, military power, to deploy a gold-based sound monetary system in their country, and then get away with the sanctions and isolation that follow?
And this is where bitcoin, once again, outshines other alternatives. The one trait that sets it apart from all “crypto”, and indeed, all monies in human history: true, sovereign-grade censorship resistance, from both your own government and foreign powers. Without needing any battalions or bombs, bitcoin enables us to fight the good fight ourselves and win. And if the broader Islamic reformation materializes, bitcoin can support it, too, for bypassing potential sanctions and increasing national wealth!
God has a knack for defeating evil by the simplest of designs — the mighty Goliath with a slingshot, the persecutors of the Prophet with a humble spider — as if to compound the humiliation of defeat by the plainness of its bearer. Who could have thought that the Kremlins, Zhongnanhais and White Houses of the world would be made helpless by the confluence of two elementary ideas: proof of work and difficulty adjustment! But this simple, easily overlooked and less understood killer combination of traits makes bitcoin an undefeatable tool in the hands of us, the 99%. We do not need to wait for anyone. We can do it ourselves with bitcoin.
While the wallet addresses, exchange accounts, market cap, and of course, the hype around crypto is constantly rising in Muslim countries, much of this activity is from the perspective of a shiny new investment vehicle, a get-rich-quick bandwagon to which everyone wants to hitch! This has engendered the animated debate of investor protection, scam avoidance and the whole academic deliberation of whether they are at all Halal owing to a perceived lack of intrinsic value and being free from government control. While all of these objections on bitcoin from the Shariah perspective have been thoroughly refuted by various scholars and are easily searchable on the internet, the continuance of this superfluous debate is dangerously distracting: In the process, we are losing sight of the higher frequencies of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.
Aye ahle-e-nazar zauq-e-nazar khoob hai laikin
Joe shay ki haqeeqat koe na dekhay woe nazar kiya
We need bitcoin, not because it’s a great investment (which incidentally it is), but because it’s a great store of value and a medium of exchange: A free medium of exchange, which can uplift us collectively if we just adopt it, en masse, as our money.
To my fellow Muslims, here is a parting thought.
We love and honor our Prophet to such an extent that even the minutest of his actions, Sunnahs, is recorded, revered and repeated, even if it be as simple as the table manners of cutting some fruit. But here is another Sunnah of bigger import: success.
The change that he set out to achieve in the world, he did achieve it. As he breathed his last in the arms of Ayesha, he had already delivered on the promise he had made to his companions in the lowest ebb of their persecution: “… a traveler from Sana to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah.”
Although bordering a little on logical fallacy, I would point out that he didn’t cite something more symbolic like the establishment of the Caliphate, or the conquests, or the subsequent power. He chose to cite, as evidence of success to what they were suffering for, the establishment of a certain social order: One in which an anonymous citizen would not fear physical or financial insecurity. I say anonymous, not a private citizen, because the choice of the word “traveler” is very telling. While you are known in your city, protected by your identity, and potential clout from a corporation or clan, it is suddenly removed when you are in a strange land. They do not even know your name, unless you tell them: You are just a wallet address. But this traveler is not afraid of loss of wealth, or being robbed, or not having the right passport, or the right vaccine passport! He can move himself, and he can move his money.
We Dinarists and Bitcoiners always equate inflation with theft. Whether you snatch 50 rupees from a poor man, or the free fall of your currency leaves him with 50 rupees less of a purchasing power, it is the same. While every ill is not caused by our monetary system, there is the obvious administrative incompetence and a dismal economic performance to account for — but inflation is definitely a huge factor. And all our high talk, slogans, research papers, reform movements, activism and militarism have deviated from this one Sunnah: The success of delivering safety to this traveler again.
Bitcoin can help us succeed. Like now! Not 20 years later. Not when some promised leader will part the seas for us again. But now, when the poor illiterate, helpless man on the street looks at us educated and privileged elites and asks: What did you do to level the playing field for me? The Islamic banker may say, “Oh, I developed this intricate Shariah compliant profit and loss sharing contract for you, approved by the council of scholars, and backed by the gold dinar, just wait for it to be deployed.” I will say, “Dude, here, let me help you buy a few satoshis and get you a Lightning wallet so you don’t have to revert back to the rupee when paying for your next meal!” I think you should do the same.
Bitcoin deserves a fresh look from us Muslims. Let’s think about it. Let’s use it correctly. Let’s spread it. Let’s understand it. Let’s use Bitcoin.
This is a guest post by Asif Shiraz. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
From Gutenberg to Google, for the last six centuries the church’s ability to utilize innovation has led to further expansion of the Gospel. Whether a missionary’s ministry takes place in modern cities or third world countries, the process of sending money across oceans can be equally as difficult. Whether because of lack of technology or an oppressive government, money transfers are often slow and expensive. The properties of Bitcoin allow a monetary network that is global, permissionless, and pseudonymous; three attributes that Christians in both hostile and friendly environments should welcome. Christians adopting technology to spread the Gospel would not be a new development, and in adopting Bitcoin they will be empowered to take part in cheap, instant, and borderless transfers of money that does not need the consent of any government or third party.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gives The Great Commission before His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”1 Nearly two thousand years later there are an estimated 2.3 billion Christians spanning every continent and country.2 In countries like the United States, evangelism comes with minimal persecution, while believers in African or Asian countries may lose their life choosing to follow Jesus.
Missionaries, led by the call of The Great Commission, put themselves and their families at risk for the sake of making disciples. Many will leave their home to go to the ends of the Earth to teach others the message of Jesus. Missionaries in hostile and non-hostile environments depend on churches, organizations, and personal relationships to fund their missionary efforts, which can often cause a loss or delay in the receiving of funds.
Today, it can be extremely difficult to get money to missionaries overseas. Even in modern countries, a transfer can take days to receive and the fees associated with it may be high. Sending a payment to a country that is hostile to the Gospel can be dangerous, expensive, and time consuming as well. This is where Bitcoin is able to save people a lot of trouble. This use case is quite common across the globe. For example, currently many immigrants who come to the United States will send money back to family in their native country to help support them, using companies like Western Union which charge high-percentage fees for smaller transactions.3 The families who receive the money also deal with privacy concerns, long travel, bus fares, and the threat of gangs who prey on those who depend on these services. Bitcoin is already being implemented to give these communities instant and nearly free transfers back home.
Activists in Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Russia also use this technology to fund their protests. People from around the world are able to send money to support these undertakings without any government being able to stop the transfer. In Venezuela, citizens are able to sell their possessions, store their wealth in bitcoin, and flee across the border without the government confiscating their life’s savings.4 All of this is possible with nothing more than access to a mobile device and an internet connection. While the technology is still fairly young, mobile devices and internet access are expanding quickly across the world, leaving the opportunity for the church worldwide to benefit from this innovation.
Looking back on the history of the church, she is no stranger to taking advantage of technology to advance the Gospel. Around the year 1440 the Gutenberg Press was invented, providing an exponentially quicker way to produce books.5 This advancement in technology allowed the Bible to be in the hands of the average man for the first time ever. Christians no longer depended on the Catholic Church to hear the Word of God; they could read it for themselves. For the first time, these men and women were not reliant on the papacy to learn, but were able to come to conclusions for themselves and as a result the Reformation rapidly spread across Europe.
At the time of the Reformation, the great reformer Martin Luther said, “Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.” At the time, the majority of Europe was illiterate and did not have access to books, therefore the Catholic Church essentially held a monopoly on information. The invention of the printing press allowed information to be transferred around the world at a faster rate than ever before, putting power in the hands of people. This new technology made it possible for reformers to bring to light the lies and abuses of power within the Catholic Church. When Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press, he gave mankind the ability to spread information, via books, faster than ever before. When Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin, he gave mankind the ability to spread information, via a monetary network, faster than ever before.
Over the last century, technology advanced at a much higher rate, and in many cases the church used the opportunity to reach lost souls because of it. The invention of the television for example, brought Billy Graham and his crusades to millions of homes across the world. The invention of the internet brought and still provides thousands of translations of the Bible, an incalculable amount of resources, and it gives those in the mission field the ability to communicate on a daily and instant basis.
Christians should embrace Bitcoin as a monetary network in the same way. In the early days of the telephone, when there were only two, it was not a great system of communication. However as phones became more mobile and accessible they also became more useful. The same is true for the internet, as well as networks on the internet such as email, Facebook, and other applications that connect people. Bitcoin is still a new technology, and over time interacting with users worldwide will only get simpler as its network expands. Using bitcoin as a means of trade does not mean one needs to speculate on the price, in the same way someone 600 years ago did not need to speculate on the adoption of the printing press in order to enjoy the reading of the books it produced. Let it be clear, the church has nothing to lose and only something to gain in using this technology to fund those who are making disciples whether in peaceful or hostile corners of the world. It will bring these missionaries more anonymity, more safety, and faster access to money to pursue their ministry.
Before going further it is important to separate the idea of bitcoin the asset and the use case of bitcoin as a payment tool. Bitcoin is a permissionless and decentralized monetary network that cannot be controlled by any one person, organization, or government. This is different from a centralized currency like the United States dollar, because there is no government or central entity that gets to dictate policy.
The decentralized nature of Bitcoin means that it is borderless and can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. Therefore, someone living in Kansas City can transfer wealth instantaneously from his or her digital wallet across the world to a missionary in China without the use of a third party. The implication is that it is no longer necessary to use Western Union, Visa, PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, or any bank; a bitcoin transaction is simply a peer-to-peer transfer, i.e. digital cash. The use of this technology gives missionaries the freedom to transfer funds freely using bitcoin, without worrying about a government or corporation freezing their accounts. As the technology advances it is also becoming quicker and nearly free to convert one’s money from bitcoin to local currency and vice versa.
At its base layer, any form of money is a ledger of transactions and information for the people who ascribe it value. Money has taken many shapes across time, with societies trading cattle, rocks, salt, gold, and as of late paper printed by the government.6 The advancement of credit card technology over the last few decades has reduced the use of paper money and put the ledger of transactions in the hands of companies, banks and governments. The control over money by institutions has led to increased corruption, which can be seen by the debasement of currencies and the breaches of privacy by hackers. Because of Bitcoin’s decentralized properties, there is no need for third parties to intervene in the transfer of money and the keeping of ledgers. In fact, because the Bitcoin ledger is spread across computers all around the world, it makes it more secure and more private than any monetary network today.
The fact that it is decentralized makes bitcoin a perfect tool for the church to aid and support missionaries. In the current system, Christians are left to trust governments or other third parties for the transfer of money. With many missionaries living in areas unfriendly to Christianity, trusting these third parties is an unwanted, but necessary risk. Missionaries who plug into the network will be able to avoid these risks and operate in a more protected and secure manner. The smaller the risk involved in conducting transactions, the less time that must be committed to it and the more time that can be committed to the mission. Bitcoin frees up time and energy for those in the mission field.
Although only 13 years old, Bitcoin is the next ground breaking technology that can be used for Christians to obey the Great Commission. While the asset’s price is currently volatile, the ability to give Christians more freedom and security in their ministry is undeniably real and certain. Missionaries across the world face the danger of death and persecution every day, but this is an invitation to take part in a monetary system that would minimize danger while also relieving a large portion of fiscal stress. Bitcoin provides the same opportunity for missionaries in Africa as it does in Asia and the United States. It empowers missionaries to send, receive, and hold their finances with less risk and danger.
This is a guest post by Brian. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
1. Esv Bible. Crossway, 2013.
2. Diamant, Jeff. “The Countries with the 10 Largest Christian Populations and the 10 Largest Muslim Populations.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 1 Apr. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/01/the-countries-with-the-10-largest-christian-populations-and-the-10-largest-muslim-populations/.
3. “Western Union Fee Table.” Free Tracking, https://www.wikibacklink.com/search/western-union-fees-2020.
4. Gladstein, Alex. “Check Your Financial Privilege.” Bitcoin Magazine: Bitcoin News, Articles, Charts, and Guides, Bitcoin Magazine: Bitcoin News, Articles, Charts, and Guides, 12 May 2021, https://bitcoinmagazine.com/culture/check-your-financial-privilege.
5. Woodbridge, John D.; James III, Frank A.. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day (p. 203). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.
6. Ammous, Saifedean. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking. John Wiley & Sons, 2018.
During bitcoin’s parabolic price increase this year, Twitter profiles with laser eyes suddenly emerged. “Anons” and celebrities, such as Elon Musk, added red lasers rays to their portraits and the hashtag #LaserRayUntil100k started to trend. As the hashtag indicated, the laser eyes were added as part of an internet ritual to increase bitcoin’s price to $100,000. But the laser eyes were only the latest expression of Bitcoin’s culture, which ranges from an idiosyncratic terminology (think “HODL,” “number go up” or “nocoiner”) to an emphasis on eating meat and lifting weights. Not surprisingly, critics cited the laser eyes as more evidence for Bitcoiners’ cult-like behavior.
But if we dismiss these cult-like rituals, we simply fail to understand their significance for Bitcoin’s adoption. Indeed, if we want to understand Bitcoin and its parabolic growth — which, over 10 years, increased from zero to more than $1 trillion — we have to recognize Bitcoin’s quasi-religious dimension, which reveals itself in the beliefs of some of the most committed supporters and their exegesis of Nakamoto’s code and writings.
It’s the commitment and excessive enthusiasm of these developers and early adopters that have been driving Bitcoin’s development and adoption since its invention a decade ago. In other words, the evangelism of Bitcoin adopters — which are often dismissed as “believers,” “evangelists” or “cultists” — is an essential feature of Bitcoin’s technological diffusion.
Not just the online rituals of Bitcoiners but also Bitcoin’s genesis itself reveals a deep resemblance with religion. Similar to religion, Bitcoin has its own founding myth: it begins as an obscure and radically novel technology that was invented by a mysterious pseudonymous creator that has, later, completely disappeared.
One of the most salient features, of course, is the resemblance between Satoshi Nakamoto and religious leaders, such as Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for his belief. Whereas Christ died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, Nakamoto most likely sacrificed his estimated 1,148,800 bitcoin — which never moved from the original wallet — for his messianic, techno-libertarian vision of a decentralized alternative to fiat currencies and central banking.
Bitcoin itself — the protocol with its hard-coded 21 million supply — has, in turn, become a transcendent absolute beyond human control and manipulation that represents a universally valid and quasi-divine truth.
Similarly, the centrality of the white paper can be analogized to sacred scripture in religions. The mythologized absence of Nakamoto — often referred to as Bitcoin’s “immaculate conception” — has, in turn, stimulated competing exegeses of the white paper that aim to recover the true meaning of Nakamoto’s code and writings.
Over the past decade, incompatible interpretations of the white paper relating to technical features, such as block size limits, have triggered a series of so-called hard forks. Bitcoin Cash, for example, emerged in the summer of 2017 from developers’ disagreement about the block size and transaction throughput. The Bitcoin Cash–fork bifurcated Bitcoin not only into two different protocols but also into splintered “sects” that are guided by different visions of Bitcoin’s future.
So-called Bitcoin maximalists, for example, envision bitcoin foremost as a form of digital gold, that is, a decentralized store of value. This view emphasizes bitcoin as a “sound” alternative to fiat currencies. Given bitcoin’s finite and asymptotic supply, supporters of this view — which, because of its monetary network effects, consider bitcoin to be the only legitimate cryptocurrency — believe that bitcoin represents a digital store of value. In contrast, proponents of Bitcoin forks, such as Bitcoin Cash, envisioned that Bitcoin will primarily facilitate individual small-value transactions.
Culturally, as a consequence of these bifurcating views of Bitcoin, different communities on Twitter, mailing lists and online forums have organized around conflicting interpretations of the white paper and original Bitcoin source code, which represent two of the most sacred objects of Bitcoin. Naturally, for some of the more radical believers in the original vision of Nakamoto, the creation of altcoins — that is, cryptocurrencies that either directly copy Bitcoin’s source code or incorporate some of its technical or conceptual properties — is, in Bitcoin’s eschatology, equalized to heresy. Not surprisingly, the heresy of attempting to clone Bitcoin’s “immaculate conception” requires some Bitcoin maximalists to excommunicate altcoins and their developers and supporters from Bitcoin-related forums, social media platforms and meetups.
As Bitcoin full-node operators choose which vision of Bitcoin they support by running the software that enforces the protocol rules, running nodes can be reinterpreted as one of the foundational ritual practices of Bitcoin. The ritual of running a Bitcoin node represents the social process that decides upon, implements and enforces a set of transaction and block-verification rules, which network participants can adopt. By adopting the same set of validation rules, network participants form an intersubjective consensus about what constitutes “Bitcoin.” Dissenting network participants — which correspond to heretics — can only deviate from this intersubjective definition of Bitcoin by “hard forking” the protocol. By upgrading a copied version of the Bitcoin software to a new set of transaction and block-verification rules, the protocol becomes compatible with their belief and interpretation of the white paper.
Analogous to religions, early disciples are critical in diffusing bleeding-edge technological innovations. For example, technology entrepreneur Wences Casares proselytized Nakamoto’s utopian prophecy among Silicon Valley venture capitalists. In the early stages of Bitcoin, a small group of die-hard believers, such as libertarian technologists and cypherpunks, started to experiment with the technology when it was still in its proof-of-concept phase. Early adopters then started to improve the Bitcoin software.
This extreme belief of early Bitcoin adopters, in turn, triggered the interest of early speculators and investors, which were, often, ideologically motivated to invest in the technology. It was this inflow of capital and interest that triggered the first Bitcoin bubbles in 2012 and 2013.
After the peak — when bitcoin, for the first time, reached a price of more than $1,000 in November 2013 — the bubble collapsed and interest decreased substantially. Eventually, bitcoin’s price bottomed and formed a plateau that attracted a new cohort of new believers and investors who appreciated the importance of the technology. Bitcoin’s price plateau persisted for two years before a new bubble gradually started to form in 2015. A new base of adopters has, over the prolonged bear market that lasted from 2013 to 2015, formed for the next iteration of the hype cycle. The next two bubbles, which, in 2017 and 2021, resulted in unprecedented hype and attention, attracted an even larger set of adopters.
These cycles of Bitcoin bubbles, which have given rise to accelerating prices and increasing media attention, have created a self-validating feedback loop that is continually reinforcing the belief and commitment of Bitcoin Core developers, entrepreneurs, or speculators.
Bitcoin’s history, which is punctuated by these fractally repeating and exponentially increasing series of bubbles and hype cycles, shows that the extreme commitment and quasi-religious belief in the technology have been critical for bootstrapping the network and cryptocurrency into existence.
Now, while the religious dimension of Bitcoin is fundamentally important in the process of technology adoption and diffusion, we obviously can’t simply believe in Bitcoin for it to become successful. Money — in a free market — tends to converge on a single standard. In order for liquidity to gravitate to one cryptocurrency, its incentive design and protocol architecture must be vastly superior to any other competitor.
Bitcoin has objectively superior properties that are hard to replicate by altcoins. You can fork Bitcoin, but you can’t copy, for example, its network effects, the long track record of network reliability, or the self-reinforcing reflexive feedback loops that drive Bitcoin’s price, liquidity and security.
But coupled with its technical properties, the extreme beliefs and commitments of core developers, “HODLers” and entrepreneurs have, over the last decade, boosted Bitcoin’s market cap from zero to more than $1 trillion, and the network from one user — Satoshi Nakamoto himself — to more than 16,000 nodes. After all, as the history of Christianity, for example, demonstrates, a group of committed believers can have quite an impact.
As investor Peter Thiel once remarked: “The best startups might be considered slightly less extreme kinds of cults. The biggest difference is that cults tend to be fanatically wrong about something important. People at a successful startup are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.”
It’s going to be interesting to witness what happens when more and more converts start to believe in the prophecy of Satoshi Nakamoto.
So far, the Bitcoin cult has been fanatically right.
Many thanks to Byrne Hobart and Michael Goldstein.
For a more detailed paper on the social dynamics of Bitcoin, see Tobias Huber and Didier Sornette, “Boom, Bust, and Bitcoin: Bitcoin-Bubbles As Innovation Accelerators.”
This is a guest post by Tobias Huber. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
Imagine all of the people who laughed at Noah when he was building his ark to save his family from the inevitable flood that the Creator was going to unleash on Earth. Noah’s faith was greatly tested as he spent month after month building a monstrous ark for an event that had never happened before. Passersby would have mocked him with such questions and comments as:
These are the same questions that Bitcoiners get from digital passersby as they build their own arks for the inevitable flood of fiat that is coming (arguably it is already here)!
Just as the Creator told Noah that a flood was coming, Satoshi warned the whole world of the impending flood of fiat with a message encoded in the genesis block that read, “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”
Satoshi went on to build the amazing Bitcoin protocol that provided the building material for Satoshi’s arks: bitcoin the asset. In the same way, the Creator created an amazing Earth that provided the resources for Noah to build his ark. Satoshi’s arks would enable the whole world to save themselves from the impending flood of fiat.
The only difference between Bitcoiners and Noah is that the fiat flood started before Bitcoiners could even build their arks — and it is about to get much much worse!
When Nixon depegged the U.S. dollar from gold in 1971, he essentially enabled all fiat currencies to be printed in a perpetual flood. We are living in a once-in-a-lifetime moment in history where all countries that can flood their own economy with fiat are doing so at a rapid pace.
The flood waters of the world’s fiat currencies are quickly inflating away the value of human time and stealing our livelihoods. Those select few that listen to the message of Satoshi are building their arks by replacing their ever-inflating fiat currency with satoshis. For every dollar, euro, yuan, rupee or any other fiat currency that Bitcoiners replace with satoshis, their ark gets a little bigger.
The size of everyone’s ark has a direct correlation to how well Bitcoiners understand the dire circumstances of the world’s monetary system, how big their family is and how much of their fiat savings they are able to save from being flooded away.
Satoshi created Bitcoin to cleanse the earth of dirty fiat currencies that rob people of their precious time. Satoshi understood that a dirty fiat world could be fixed with a monetary system that:
As Bitcoiners prepare their arks for the huge wall of fiat floodwaters that continue to consume the world, they are also diligently trying to teach and convince their loved ones to build their own arks. As frustrating as it is for Bitcoiners to teach newcomers about something that only the Bitcoin rabbit hole can teach them, they patiently and steadfastly coax precoiners closer and deeper into the rabbit hole.
After the flood of fiat has receded, the Bitcoin Standard will bring back life on earth and Satoshi’s beautiful timechain will forever remind humans that fiat will never flood the Earth again.
This is a guest post by Jeremy Garcia. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
Author Jimmy Song discusses his book “Thank God For Bitcoin” and parellels between Bitcoin and Bible scripture.
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Author, Clubhouse host and Twitter influencer Jimmy Song joined hosts Steven McClurg and C.J. Wilson in episode nine of “Bitcoin Bottom Line” to discuss religion and the production of his book “Thank God For Bitcoin.”
Song kicked off the episode discussing his book, sharing that he wanted to write because producing content is a way to help others on their journey.
“There’s a lot of conflicting voices, a lot of noise,” Song said. “It’s hard to cut through that and understand what’s going on, so I try to simplify things to help others understand.”
McClurg shared that, even after six years of explaining Bitcoin to his wife, she never fully understood the concept until she read “Thank God For Bitcoin.” Since then, she’s been excitedly sending it to all of her friends and sharing it with her community.
“I’m just trying to help others, because Bitcoin has helped me in many ways, especially financially,” Song said.
After working in Corporate America and having his opinions largely beholden to his employers, Song discovered a freedom in expressing his opinion and being authentic. He began sharing his faith at Bitcoin conferences, where he connected with his six coauthors-to-be. This group ended up holding a Zoom Bible study during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the writing of “Thank God For Bitcoin.” They studied what the Bible says regarding money and read economic textbooks, integrating Song’s past 10 years of experience with Bitcoin and his religion.
Wilson noted that this links the most futuristic money ever invented and some of the oldest rules ever written. The similarities in the two demonstrate that people haven’t necessarily changed in a lot of ways.
“A lot of the systems we have right now tend to be very alienating to the soul, and corporations tend to be one of those things,” Song commented. “It’s a completely artificial environment that we aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with.”
“Bitcoin gives you a sense of independence from a lot of the controlling systems that exist,” he continued. “There is so much that ends up controlling us that we think is beneficial to humanity, but they end up playing us.”
McClurg then explained that he spent most of his life working for corporations where he had to bury his religious and political beliefs, but he changed that for his employees.
“When Leah and I started Valkyrie, we decided that our values would be instilled in the company and people would be able to express them,” McClurg said.
Wilson closed out the episode with an analogy: “Bitcoin is a guiding North Star as I’m sailing across the ocean,” he said, “I know I’m going to encounter waves and sharks along the way, but Bitcoin’s my light and drives my vision.”
I recently read “Isaiah’s Job” by Albert J Nock. It’s an essay that inspired generations of anarcho capitalists and libertarians such as Rothbard and Rand, so if you’ve not yet read it, do so now or bookmark it for later:
“Isaiah’s Job” by Albert Jay Nock
I was introduced to it by Francis Pouliot at Bitcoin 2021, on a roundtable with Russell Okung, MVDEX, Matt Snow and a few others. I finally got around to reading it three weeks ago, but it struck such a chord with me that I feel like I had known it from a past life.
The piece is dense, eloquent and describes “the Remnant,” a character or archetype which you might know instinctively, but may not yet have put into words.
You may have heard the term “Remnant” being used by Pouliot, myself or others. It’s how “those who matter” were described by God to Isaiah, and is a reference you’ll find not only in the Bible, but in meaningful literature from across the ages.
This is my homage to it. The modern day Remnant are the Bitcoiners.
It is they who matter. It is they who will deliver the mindless masses from the jaws of hell, servitude and despair. And they will do it not only without the support of the masses (who are all too ready to enslave themselves), but literally despite them.
Bitcoiners, I dedicate this to you. Wherever you are. Whoever you are.
If you’re reading this, you know who you are.
Before I get into my overview of “Isaiah’s Job,” I want to (hopefully) challenge you. Few phrases, ideas or statements enrage me more than the following:
I don’t need to remind you of the last two, because you see them plastered all over the media (in every form) and drilled into your brain via a never-ending deluge of Orwellian messages on repeat at airports, shopping centers, train stations and public venues.
Despite their seemingly-innocuous injunction, we know all too well what they mean, and where they lead. We see the ramifications all around us. Mindless zombies walking alone in the park or driving solo while wearing face diapers, led by maniacal authoritarians who want to inject first and “study the long-term effects” later.
The idiocy of “equality” I have bashed in the past, and you can learn more on that here: “Equality Breeds Conformity”
The phrase that I want to point my literary shotgun at today is the one that’s driven me crazy for years now:
I wrote an essay a couple of years back called: “DO NOT BUY BITCOIN,” and in there I mentioned the idea of “selective adoption.” In fact, I’ve spoken about this multiple times at conferences and meetups, to a mixture of either strong support or hesitant agreement, as if what I said was blasphemy…
“Did he just say that?” “Is this right?” “What about all of the unbanked people?”
So, let me be clear and blunt: Mass adoption is never the goal for anything transformative, because the opinion or behavior of the masses does not matter.
The masses, aka, “the herd,” by definition come last. They do not set the trend, but follow it. They are the laggards. What they want is not important because they either have no idea what that is, or they simply default to what is available.
As Henry Ford famously said:
Today, we have the calendar, the engine, the computer and mechanical flight thanks to Remnants such as Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Bohr. The same goes for Tesla, Rockefeller and Jobs.
They all changed the world because they did not build for the masses.
They built for the future and those who could see that future. The Remnant.
The masses came later, and by that point, the Remnant was building and converging around what would come next.
So, here’s my contention:
For Bitcoin, or any other grand invention for that matter, to succeed, it needs selective adoption.
It needs to be built for the game changers. For the revolutionaries. For the 1%. For the trendsetters. For the leaders and for the Remnant.
We are the ones who make it into a default, because we have the courage to buck the trend.
If we depended on the masses, the default would be Gulags, and they’d be happy with their lot:
Yes, “Bitcoin is for everybody,” but “everybody” will come not because they understand it or know why it exists. They’ll come because it’s the only choice left. They’ll come once we’ve already won, and when truth has prevailed.
Have I challenged you a little?
Have I perhaps rubbed you the wrong way?
Are there any cracks in that “mass adoption” message you‘ve heard over and over and over again?
I hope so. Because what follows is why the above is not just an opinion, but a fact of life.
Thank you once again to Pouliot for the intro to this essay and, of course, to Nock for writing it, may he rest in peace.
Unless otherwise noted, the following excerpts are from “Isaiah’s Job,” and commentary is by yours truly:
Has a better paragraph describing modern society versus Bitcoiners ever been written?
I mean, for 12 years, Bitcoiners have been laughed at. Not just by the mainstream but by blockchainers, shitcoiners, no-coiners, the media, governments, the intelligentsia and even so-called “freedom fighters” like Chris Sky.
And now, against the backdrop of a world genuinely going to hell, we’re fighting to build a Noah’s Ark so that the Remnant can get out with their lives and rebuild.
When I’m asked, “Why do you write?” or, “Why do you speak out?” or, “Why do you run a Bitcoin-only company? You could make so much more money by listing [insert shitcoin],” the above quote and the below quote are the answers why.
In fact, whether Bitcoiners know it or not, this is deep inside all of them. We are the Remnant and we know that when we speak, there are those who will listen. Yes, I am talking to you right now.
For every one Remnant who gets it, there are tens of thousands of those in the masses who don’t. And whether it’s more nature or more nurture, it doesn’t matter because the precise blend is impossible to know. What counts is that one in every ten thousand or hundred thousand will always rise above the rest.
The mid-wit is the modern memetic representation of this.
PS, If you’re feeling good reading this, you are probably on one of the tail ends. If you’re offended, you’re probably in the center.
The shitcoiner, the blockchainer, the venture capitalist trying to sell you their next pre-mined pump and dump, wants to create a “message for the masses.”
Diluted, ephemeral, miasmic, vague, vanilla and lost in the ether of platitudes heard daily from the politically-correct intelligentsia that the masses have been brainwashed by.
In the same way that Bitcoin does not just “change” under the pressure of a Roger Ver who wants bigger blocks for his vision of a base layer payments network (i.e., a slower, more broken variant of PayPal), a Bitcoiner does not look to skew his message for mass approval or to sound nice such that he can be more accepted by “the government” or the “academics” or “the masses.”
Yes, Bitcoin is for everyone, and Bitcoiners can come from any and all walks of life, but the purity of the message and the incorruptibility that is Bitcoin never wavers. It never dilutes.
This is why many have likened Bitcoin to an objective truth. You cannot dilute the truth because it becomes a lie, and when it becomes a lie, you can only fool the masses; not the Remnant.
The best you have, the best you are, and the best you can be. This is not only what the Remnant will produce, but what the Remnant will demand.
It’s similar to just focusing on accumulating bitcoin while you work on what you’re good at. The modern, fiat world we live in, where incentives are broken at every level, fools the masses into thinking they must “invest” to keep up with inflation, catch the next shitcoin pump before it dumps, watch the “news” to keep up with the mindless affairs of the world, get “likes” to feel validated, take photos and share your private life with the world so you can keep up with the Joneses and “follow” faux celebrities as if they matter.
It’s all noise, and it all comes from a place of internal lack. A feeling that you might miss out or that you’re not enough, so you try hard to be something you’re not.
Bitcoin is signal, and much like the truth, it is a source of deep fulfilment. The Bitcoiner goes about their business, secure in the knowledge that the product of their sacred labor is not dependent upon the flimsy promise of man, but rooted in the fundamental laws of the universe. They are the humans who don’t have to pretend.
This excerpt reminds me of the movie “Fight Club,” and once again reminds me of Bitcoiners as a group of people. We have infiltrated every layer of society. We signal this in subtle ways that only other Bitcoiners would appreciate.
So, if at times you feel alone, remember that there are others just like you out there. We are everywhere, all the time, and just like an idea, we cannot be stopped.
As I said earlier. For every one member of the Remnant, there are 100,000 of the masses. But, just as importantly, when you think you’re the only one, remember there are “7,000 back there” who you’ve not yet heard of. They exist, and they will find you so long as you remain true.
No group of people exist on earth that has more consistently and successfully called our frauds, scammers, LARPers and idiots from all walks of life. Some of my favorite Bitcoiners in this regard are DeaterBob, Pouliot, Saifedean Ammous, John Carvalho and Giacomo Zucco.
Contrast them to the many “influencers” out there spewing the same old artificial beyond-meat manure about “mass adoption” and “building followers” by “trying to make it accessible for everyone.”
Fuck that. It’s disgusting.
The former is organic. The latter is fiat.
A Bitcoiner is allergic to bullshit, in the same way the body is allergic to the fake foods designed for the masses.
As a Bitcoiner, diluting your message and your mission to “appeal to the masses” is the greatest fraud you can commit. It’s the pathway to emptiness, to regret and to deep meaninglessness… into the abyss of the masses.
Those who want the best for you are by definition those who demand the best from you.
These are your true friends. These are your community. These are the Remnant. In order to be among them, you must be the best and most honest version of yourself. There is no greater aspiration in life.
Ever wonder why we all seem to converge onto such profound truths separately, individually but collectively? It’s that synchronicity some have recently spoken of.
Bitcoiners plant seeds. We write code, we produce content, we discuss ideas and we remain committed to truth and first principles. As we do this, we not only plant seeds in other’s minds, but we create fertile ground for seeds of truth to grow in ours. This is part of the reward for the path we must walk.
Nock’s piece is truly one of the all-time greats, and you can see why it helped shape the thinking of the greats like Rothbard. I can only hope I’ve done it justice above.
I’d also like to add that while it is profound, it’s essence is not entirely unique. You’ve seen, heard or read the same kind of message in the great speeches, powerful music and texts that have shaped humanity throughout history.
The Remnant have always been present, in some capacity. All of the great stories were written about them.
There is a reason why the greatest stories are those in which a hero or group of heroes prevail against insurmountable odds.
There is a reason why the Bible is full of stories in which God speaks with a member of the Remnant, e.g.,; Noah so he could build an Ark, Moses to Mt. Sinai, etc.
There is a reason why Homer wrote of Odysseus, and not one of the forgotten soldiers in the army.
There’s a reason why we have zombie movies, in which the protagonists fight for survival amongst the hordes of the mindless running rampant through the streets.
There’s a reason why apocalyptic movies show a world engulfed in chaos with millions slain, while the protagonists not only escape and survive, but often discover a way to thrive.
There is a reason why Morpheus was looking for Neo in “The Matrix,” and why “The Construct” was developed:
These people. These masses. They are everywhere. They make up the construct, but are not players in the game. They are like the background; always there in some shape or form.
At best they don’t really matter, and at worst they make up elements of miasmic, ephemeral “construct” which The remnant must rebel against. At least until they’ve transformed and are “unplugged.”
The masses resemble inertia. The dumb, deaf, blind default that will not change unless a new force is applied. They are the 80% of the Pareto distribution that make 20% of the difference.
The Remnant are the foreground.
The focal point. The tip of the spear.
The force that initiates and re-directs the inertia.
The 20% that makes 80% of the difference.
This may sound harsh to some, but it’s like gravity. Whether you like it or not doesn’t matter; it’s reality. You can either use it, or lie to yourself and walk off the cliff.
Instead, one must make peace with the facts. To do so, realize that for there to be a 20%, there must be an 80%. There must be a contrast, or as Alan Watts would say, “The foreground exists because there is a background.”
Inertia exists in the background, but it is downstream of the initiating force.
The masses must exist for there to be a Remnant. They have their place, as much as the Remnant does. The only question is, who are you, and what role do you play in the grand game of life?
A minor detour, but very related is the idea of democracy. A form of rule supposedly “for” and “by” the masses.
The following image comes to mind immediately:
I find democracy to be abhorrent, and it’s frustrating that the source of human flourishing and progress, i.e., free exchange, property rights and individual ingenuity/productivity, has been conflated with dEmOcRaTiC rule.
The reality is far harsher. Democracy is more accurately the parasite which has benefited from the prosperity of free markets and continued to leech resources, capacity and energy alongside human flourishing.
We’re only now seeing the ramifications of it.
Democracy emerged in the West as a reaction by the masses, to the prosperity created by the free markets of the Remnant. The rising tide lifted all of the boats and with it came a wave of new capital that the parasitic masses could feed on. Hence, they created, rather mindlessly, a more sophisticated way of stealing from people. The idea:
Give the Remnant enough space to innovate and produce, and then just take all their shit after the fact.
The way of the masses is always a tragedy of the commons.
Democracies create legal, public monopolies, run by popularity contest winners with no skin in the game. They appeal to and always devolve into rule of the masses where morality and the consequences of stupidity are socialized, and often carried or paid for by the productive members of society.
The sales pitch sounds nicer on the surface, but in reality it’s a much greater burden on society because it, a) has the capacity to last, and b) empowers the masses to think they’re somehow in charge, while they proceed to blindly obey their parasitic overlords.
Monarchies are at least run by hereditary title holders with skin in the game. Hence why they can fail or correct much faster. I believe Bitcoin will usher in a new age of natural, competent elites, many of whom would be considered “royal” in the classical sense.
Anarchy is the realm of the Remnant. The idea that society is voluntary, fragmented and localized, where people make decisions for themselves or in groups built on common values.
Alas, Democracy is a topic for a future piece. For now, Osho’s short but brutally hilarious take on Democracy can have the final word:
In the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that I was not aware of the “Remnant” terminology until I had met Pouliot, and did not appreciate its meaning until I’d read “Isaiah’s Job.”
In saying that, I seem to have understood its essence somewhere deep inside of me. Looking back on the following two pieces from 2020 and 2019, I can literally see myself grasping for this idea and searching for the words.
This is likely the same for you. Reading this now. Yes, you.
If you feel as I feel, and if you see the world as I see it, you too have felt this in your bones. You too are part of the Remnant. You may not have had words for it, but the feeling has been there all along.
It’s once again Morpheus reaching out to Neo:
The blue pill is for the masses. The red pill is exactly the one a member of the Remnant would seek out and take. In fact, they are the only ones who would actually hear the call, while the masses remain oblivious.
Bitcoiners are heeding that call today. Bitcoiners are the Remnant
Bitcoin is for the Remnant.
Crypto is for the masses.
The masses are generally on the wrong side of history because of the madness inherent in crowds. They only find themselves “right” when it’s the default position. After the truth, forged forth by the Remnant, finally prevails.
By the time they figure out what’s happened, the trend is over. The upside is gone. This is why the masses don’t, never have and never will make a difference, nor really matter.
By the time they’re all finally using Bitcoin in the same way they breathe oxygen, the Remnant will be building cities and citadels, terraforming new lands, unlocking intergalactic energy and inventing cosmic teleportation.
The Remnant are the 20% that make possible the 80% in the Pareto distribution.
And don’t fret. Despite my tone, this is a story of hope for all. The masses will always benefit in the end, and a select few will rise to the occasion and join the ranks of the Remnant. They shall be unplugged
Remember that Neo saved all of Zion, Tesla lit up the world and Satoshi has delivered energy money to us all.
Just because I don’t care for what the masses have to say, doesn’t mean I don’t care for making the world a better place.
In the end, they will get their piece of the pie, so long as we remain true and build Bitcoin for the Remnant.
But if we try to build it for them, if we dilute our message and our mission to make it palatable to the masses, we will miss our chance and send the world directly into hell.
So, stay true. Take on the often thankless job as a prophet of the Remnant, for the Remnant shall prevail so long as an existence exists. The dark mass of the masses cannot eliminate the light, no matter how vast, menacing and omnipresent it is.
This is a guest post by Aleks Svetski of www.amber.app. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.