As Tesla buys $1.5 billion in bitcoin, BNY Mellon expands custodial services to include bitcoin and crypto assets and Mastercard follows Visa and PayPal in facilitating cryptocurrency transactions, the bitcoin price has reached record highs — yet again — breaking over $61,000.
Once again in the spotlight, bitcoin has reignited arguments over the reasons for its eventual rise or fall. Such arguments frequently proceed from data, facts or other material “realities.” We contend that a thorough analysis, however, must also think about Bitcoin in its immaterial form, as an object of faith, or what is the more secularized versions of faith: belief and trust.
While certain commentators have examined the relationship between bitcoin and faith, their work typically either disparages “the bitcoin faithful” as unthinking cultists or denotes bitcoin as a uniquely “faith-based asset.” We would like to remind our readers that, while faith in bitcoin sometimes inspires fanaticism, and sometimes inspires incredulity during dinner conversations, the faith that sustains the price of bitcoin similarly sustains the price of other asset classes at a foundational level.
More broadly, human life is shaped and driven by faith. Faith can motivate people to such extremes that they willingly sacrifice their lives or wellbeings. Even beyond the paradigm of religious martyrdom, faith motivates one’s sacrifice for a leader, a company or an idea.
Consider faith in the idea of freedom. It motivates one to sacrifice one’s own life to support a revolution; faith in the sanctity of freedom of speech motivated the staff of Charlie Hebdo to risk their lives in defending it; a quixotic faith in freedom from government oppression motivates anti-maskers to throw caution to the wind, furthering a deadly pandemic.
At the same time, faith quietly sustains everyday practices. Most of us, for example, visit a bank teller or ATM confident that money will be available for withdrawal,…