Satanism and Bitcoin have a lot in common.
For starters, both are founded on ideas of openness and empowerment. Bitcoin has been embraced by everyone from dissidents to political candidates because of its openness—every transaction is permanently stored on a public ledger called the blockchain—and it affords users a degree of anonymity online. Satanism is based on similarly noble tenets: respect for all creatures, the inviolability of one's own body, and justice over institutional demands. It's a self-help thing, basically.
Both also face criticism from people who don't really understand them. Some radical corners of the Christian community have even conflated the two, claiming that Bitcoin is the "mark of the beast" or some such. It makes perfect sense, then, that the Satanic Temple—the organization that responded to a statue of the Ten Commandments being erected at the Oklahoma state capital with a lawsuit and a bronzed statue of Baphomet, a pagan idol—would warm up to the cryptocurrency.
As of Tuesday night, the Satanic Temple's Detroit chapter is accepting Bitcoin to fund its operations, just in time for Walpugisnacht—a traditional Satanist holiday that falls on April 30th. To find out why Satanism and Bitcoin go so well together, we called up Rob Konsdorf, the cryptocurrency consultant for the temple.
Motherboard: Why is the Satanic Temple accepting Bitcoin?
Konsdorf: Good question. The Satanic Temple is fully volunteer-based. There's no revenue streams, so the temple relies on donations to fund events, print fliers, hire consultants for legal stuff, and basically everything that the Satanic Temple does. It's funded through donations because there's no membership due. Anyone can join for free. There's no monetization within the temple, so accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—we intend to accept other cryptocurrencies, too—gives us the ability to reach out to more people and give them more options for donating if they don't want to link their identity.
Cryptocurrency is empowering, and the Satanic Temple—how much do you know about Satanism?
I know a little, but go on.
Okay. So, the Satanic Temple. There's no devil-worship or supernaturalism. It's really an empowerment thing. Cryptocurrency is empowering because it redefines the nature of ownership. You can hold your private keys, you can hold your own money. You can control it, and you're not at the whims of a third party. To me, it just makes sense that the temple would embrace cryptocurrency because it's an empowering thing.
"If you look at these cryptocurrencies, it's like we're in the very embryonic stages of it all"
It's really fascinating. Satanism gets a pretty bad rap, but at the end of the day… The Church of Satan [another Satanist religious group] tries to be shocking, and it's very theatrical. But it's very much like anarchism in that it's a loaded word. You bring it up, and it evokes images of people drinking blood and sacrificing goats and stuff. But, in reality, the Satanic Temple is a non-theistic organization with a bent for activism. They're challenging legislation that erodes women's rights, gay rights, and basically dogmatic legislation. It's challenging the status quo, and both the Satanic Temple and the cryptocurrency movement seek to question the status quo of how society operates, and how humans interact with each other within society.
Are you looking for other ways to use Bitcoin, besides collecting donations?
There's a lot more we can do with the underlying technology, like the blockchain. I'm very much enamored in, and interested in, pursuing how we can leverage this stuff. I'm interested in using crypto-assets [like company shares] to create an internal reputation system for the Satanic Temple. I've issued the asset already on a technology called BitShares. On BitShares, you can issue your own crypt-asset and control it. Companies can issue crypto-equities and be SEC compliant. But people can do stuff for fun. I've issued 'Satanics', and as we build up our intranet and organizational tools, I'll be seeking ways to gamify reputation within the organization. Like, how much are you doing? How involved are you? Oh, you have more Satanics.
The comparison between Satanism and Bitcoin is interesting because they're both pretty misunderstood. Are you worried that associating Bitcoin with Satan could harm Bitcoin's public perception?
That's a great question. Bitcoin is challenging the status quo—it's for everyone. To try to dodge potentially incendiary topics for some PR is just totally against the entire point of Bitcoin; of censorship resistance. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. It's something anyone can use that has the internet. People should think for themselves, and look into Satanism, as well. They shouldn't dismiss it because their fire and brimstone pastor told them Satan is bad.
The reason why I work with these guys is—I'm not really in the temple, I'm a consultant for them—that they're trying to be the antithesis of dogmatic thought. They're trying to foster critical thinking, and I think if everyone was capable of making their own decisions, our society and the way we interact with each other would be so much different and better. But we're factionalized. We're split. We're divided and conquered. And my goal is to build bridges. Hell yeah, Satanism. Who cares what people have described it as? If you look at it, it's a really reasonable thing. They're trying to improve the world, but under the guise of the dark lord.
It reminds me a lot of the Reefer Madness scare. And now everyone's cool with weed. In decades, when information is more disseminated and we have some more critical thinkers, hopefully, people may look at Satanism and say, "Oh, it's a non-theistic religion. It's like Unitarians."
And, similarly, maybe people will have come around on Bitcoin?
If you look at these cryptocurrencies, it's like we're in the very embryonic stages of it all. It's like looking at the internet from 1990. Like, what is this thing? How are we going to use it? People hadn't really made web stores yet. And that, I think, is where we are with cryptocurrencies. I'm not a maximalist for Bitcoin by any stretch of the imagination. I think there's a lot of issues with it, like how much energy it costs to secure the ledger, and the mining.
I think we're going to see a lot of empowerment and highly-scalability. When you look at a peer-to-peer network, it's a lot more like how nature disseminates information. High proximity, peer-to-peer. There's a really good TEDx talk called "Information Liquidity," and it talks about how we can't scale the current infrastructure of the internet to trillions of devices, and we need to reinvent it. We need to step back and think about how we use the internet, and what's a better way. Let's look to nature.
What would Satan buy with Bitcoin?
There's so much interesting stuff you can buy with Bitcoin. I bought my mattress with Bitcoin. I bought some black licorice from Berlin. But what would Satan buy?
This goes back to the thing that Satan isn't real. It isn't a deity in the Satanic Temple, because we don't believe in the supernatural. But, for fun? He'd probably pick up some cocaine a the darknet market.
I'm not really sure what he'd buy. He could donate to Rand Paul with it.
Or the Satanic Temple.
He could! As of last night at 3:30 AM.
CORRECTION 01/05: An earlier version of this article stated that the Satanic Temple emerged from the Church of Satan. This is incorrect. This article has since been updated.