How Bitcoin helped me escape a Doomsday Cult

This opinion editorial is by Jonathan Leger (a software developer and the author of Regarding Bitcoin). This article was originally published on Substack. I was raised in a doomsday religion that taught God was about to wage war on Armageddon and end the current world order. All the governments were ruled over by the devil. The Kingdom of Heaven, ruled by Jesus Christ, would replace them. This worldview discouraged real financial planning. What was the point in investing in a system that is on the verge of collapse? This extreme religious upbringing — and my eventual escape from it — helped me in my path to understanding Bitcoin Maximalism.Discovering BitcoinMy Bitcoin experience began with a losing trade in the summer of 2014. After reading several articles about this “magic online money”, I purchased my first full coin for $500. I was not prepared for the volatility of the price swings and sold my first whole coin at a loss later in the year. It would have been so easy to know… The last five years have been a learning experience for me. I left the cult in 2017 with my wife. She is currently exiled from her entire family, as required by cult doctrine. I also lost all my “friends”. It was difficult to get to know the real world and to create a social network beyond the pre-made “friends” we were given by the church. Non-members would all die at Armageddon by God’s hand, so it was not a good idea to get too familiar. You might also be affected by their wicked ways, so it was best to stay away from them. Because members believed all governments on earth were Satanic, I was unable to vote or take part in any form of political campaigning. I read books about how far humanity has come and how much we are all better off than in centuries past. I was optimistic and excited for the future. In 2004, I had established and grown a successful software development company and an internet marketing coach. Our tools helped people compete against larger companies to get websites to the top of Google search results. My website was the top result when Google searched for “coolest guy in the world”. This is a testament to the Bitcoiner mantra “Don’t believe, verify.” “Despite having millions of dollars in software product launches that were successful, I lost most of it due to poor financial decisions and increased competition from better capitalized companies. I also went through a very difficult, expensive divorce. They say that love is great, but divorce is a hundred times more. I was poor growing up and didn’t have any formal or personal education about money management. I wasn’t able to manage my money properly when I “made it”. I had many amazing personal experiences thanks to the money. My personal and family life were a mess. I was still a believer in the doomsday religion praying for the end. I felt like the wealthy writer in Ecclesiastes. “I have seen all of the works that are under the sun; and, behold! All is vanity and vexation. “In 2019, I was 42 years of age, had escaped from the cult, and was remarried with a wonderful woman whom i adore. I spent a lot of time studying markets to avoid making the same mistakes in the past and to create a retirement plan. I was successful with stocks, but I kept hearing about Bitcoin and how it was unlike any other. I read “The Bitcoin Standard” and understood why sound money was important. I bought BTC again, this time at $9,000. Contagion HitsWhen COVID-19 erupted in early 2020, I did the same thing many others did: I listened to the “experts”. As the pandemic theater unfolded, I realized that politics had many of the same characteristics as the cult I was part of. There were leaders who could not be questioned, and members who would shame anyone who dares to speak out. Their god was “The Science”, their Pope, Anthony Fauci and their clergy. While small businesses were shut down, rights were lost and mega-corporations and big box chains made record profits, including Big Pharma, Trillions of dollars were printed from thin air, proving the Cantillon effect, which states that the biggest beneficiaries of changes to money supply are those who are closest to money printers. I was looking for gains, just like many others in the crypto-casino. I sold my bitcoin at $45,000 to invest in altcoins. I believed I could multiply my investment. I actually did enough to be able stop writing software for about one year and a quarter, which was a much-needed hiatus that gave me more time to do research. Then came the market crash in 2022. With inflation clearly not “transitory,” the money printer was halted, and the Federal Reserve began to raise rates at a historically-unprecedented pace. Markets responded negatively and all cryptocurrencies fell with them. Along with everything else, the price of bitcoin plummeted. Low prices exposed the weaknesses of overleveraged schemes such as Celsius and Three Arrows Capital and led to their bankruptcy. Terra, along with a number of smaller crypto operations, collapsed. FTX, which was purportedly the second-largest centralized cryptocurrency exchange in the world, offered to save the industry but turned out to be the biggest fraudster of all. Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of FTX, was accused of stealing users’ and investors’ money and sending it into Alameda, its trading arm. There, it gambled away the money on high-risk trades which failed spectacularly to the tune of 10 billion. Shortly thereafter, FTX was the subject of a massive hack. The repercussions of this are still being felt. Evidence of political intrigue was evident. This is supported by the fact that SBF was treated with kid gloves in mainstream media coverage. Some even referred to him as a victim, rather than a predator. Nobody has been arrested as of this writing. To give you an example, Bernie Madoff was handcuffed the day after his fraud was exposed. Bitcoiners were shocked at how many people ignored their most fundamental truth, “Not your keys and not your coins.” Although I was happy to see people listening, the damage was severe in terms of reputation and financial loss. Since my beginning with Bitcoin, I have always self-custodied all my belongings and was not affected by any of the financial and reputational losses. I listened to Bitcoiner podcasts again, read long-form articles, watched videos, and reminded myself how bad the current world financial system is. The Bitcoiners claim that it’s “just math” and I agree with them. The debt spiral isn’t going to stop. The end is coming, but not in the same way that I was taught growing up. I finally get it: ‘Don’t Trust, Verify’ During my time trading and hoarding altcoins I thought Bitcoin Maxis was too extreme. Although I was in agreement with their views on sound money, decentralization, and that most cryptos were vaporware rug pulls that are waiting to happen – I didn’t get their hatred for any crypto other than bitcoin. This was especially true for projects that were being used in the real-world to apparent benefit. There are Windows, MacOS X, Linux, Android, iOS for phones and many other apps that can be run on each of these platforms. Many of them compete for market share. This competition fosters innovation, which ultimately makes all software better. Bitcoiners respect the free-market principle, so I was puzzled why they abandoned it when it came time to cryptocurrencies. I assumed they did it out of self-interest. People wouldn’t invest in other projects so they wouldn’t put money in bitcoin. This would hurt the Bitcoiner’s own portfolio. It is power-intensive and slow, but it is far faster than bank technologies like SWIFT in terms speed and guaranteed settlement. Even if the “green” argument was only fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD), why would you stick with proof of work when other tech has proven faster and more efficient, making them more viable for payment systems? Today, after all that’s happened in the past three years, it finally makes sense. “Don’t trust, verify. These three words are the core of the entire Bitcoiner philosophy. Trust has been misused, even by a small number of people. It takes a small minority to abuse and misuse your trust to cause you and everyone else who relies on it grave harm. Don’t trust, verify. How does this relate to Bitcoiners referring to all cryptos as “shitcoins”, and dismissing them outright. It’s simple. It’s a Ponzi scheme. Fiat is “money through decree” — it’s not backed with any real assets and only has value because it says so. Governments can use fiat to rob citizens. They can print money without the consent of citizens. This is a tax that hasn’t been approved by the people or voted on by them. It is theft. For example, before fiat, governments needed hard currency (usually gold), to finance the wars they wanted. They couldn’t pay the taxes if they didn’t have enough money to fight the wars. This is not a popular idea. Fiat allows the government to print as much money as it wants, taking the money from the pockets of those who use the fiat currency to pay for their self-serving wars. This is done without the need for permission and without anyone realizing. You must continue trying to make more money year after year if you know that the money in your bank will be less valuable next year than it was this year. The majority of people are perpetual wage slaves and cannot get ahead. Technology is constantly improving supply chains through automation and transportation, so everything should be cheaper over time. Yet, prices continue to rise. Why? What does fiat have to say about cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin? All cryptocurrencies work within the current financial system to improve it, make them more efficient, and provide better privacy. This has some positive consequences. Stablecoins, for instance, allow people to access the U.S. Dollar in countries where their currency is under severe inflation or whose banks are corrupt or unreliable. It still needs the fiat Ponzi. You can talk until your eyes hurt about how a highly efficient cryptocurrency could allow access to the financial systems of billions of people, improving their lives by helping them escape inflationary currencies and bypassing corrupt governments. It doesn’t matter, because you’re only giving those people access to another fiat money, and fiat is killing the free market. It’s possible to talk about how tokens allow small businesses to raise capital without having to pay billions of dollars to big banks for an IPO. Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. While some cryptos may be very useful, they only delay the inevitable sinking ship. Maxis believes that bitcoin will replace fiat and not just shore it up, but return sound money to the world. They often say that bitcoin fixes everything. Bitcoiners understand that this is not just about money. It’s a guideline that affects every aspect of your life. It’s a belief system. However, I won’t call it a religion. Since people of all religions subscribe to its tenants, it’s not a religion. Maxis can seem to be in a cult to those who aren’t Bitcoiners. But it’s not. It’s actually the opposite. Bitcoininers are people who have escaped from a cult called the cultof fiat. They were brainwashed into believing that the government had control over the money printer and that the Fed could plan the economy. This led to them becoming like everyone else. They can only see a blank wall and shadows cast by a fire behind them. They give the shadows names believing they are real representations of the real-world. One of the prisoners escapes the cave and realizes that the shadows are not real representations of the actual world after he has experienced it. He returns to the cave to convince the other prisoners. But they aren’t convinced because the shadows are all that they have ever known. Bitcoiners are the escaped man. Their efforts are not for the faint-hearted. It’s a true David and Goliath moment. The Bitcoiner stands with his golden coins in his hand, looking at the giant in the eyes with a defiance that most people consider madness. It may be madness, but Bitcoin would not have made it this far without its dauntless spirit. I for one will cheer them on when the giant collapses. This is Jonathan Leger’s guest post. These opinions are not necessarily those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Inc.

 

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