If the title of this article was “The New (and Real) Religion Based on the Ethereum Blockchain” it would likely be passed over as just another crazy, super-spiritual fad. So explaining the Ethereum Blockchain is in order.
It is a piece of very complex technology that is used in cryptocurrency transactions. The average person is best able to understand it by thinking of it as a single financial transaction where there is a single shared record of the transaction history. Every place on the network where the transaction passes through stores a copy of this history. With Ethereum the most recent state of each smart contract is stored. A smart contract is an algorithm that stores the information of the person initiating the transaction.
So what does all of this have to do with a religion? Matt Liston, the founder of the Blockchain religion which he calls 0xΩ, is as cryptic as the technology he aspires to use as the basis for his new religion. The document he has created as the foundation of the new religion is called a Flame Paper. There is a reason for this quirky name, as we will see shortly.
The Flame Paper is intended to be a flexible document, where a centralized authority is done away with and the members of the religion can change the contents of the Flame Paper by majority vote or as conditions warrant. Rather than the followers being told what to believe, they create their own religion based on the needs of the community.
How does the blockchain fit into all of this? The blockchain is a very secure method of sending transactions because it is both distributed and difficult to hack, preserving the integrity of the transaction (You might see the Flame Paper as the initial transaction/message). This would allow followers to voice their opinions on a variety of matters, or even give their vote to another member who would then be able to vote on their behalf. If you think about this in the context of a democracy and a voting booth, the privacy issues and representation problems seem to disappear.
But the initial thrust of 0xΩ is that it is focused on the financial transaction religious people make to their churches or other centers of worship. The privacy of blockchain allows people to donate to whomever they choose without the money passing through a centralized, governing authority. In this sense, the Blockchain denomination actually makes more sense when you stop to think about it. If the intention of giving is to benefit the recipient, passing that money through an intermediary such as a centralized authority can degrade the actual contribution through “processing fees” or other types of “administrative expenses.”
Liston points out that the research shows people are willing to give more if they are sure the money they are giving ends up in the intended hands. When you consider the number of non-profit organizations where those who donate are told there will be 86% of their donation that actually makes it to the intended recipient, blockchain is more than practical.
What Liston may be saying by connecting financial technology with a religion is that most religions exist solely on the basis of the giving of their followers. This has been a centuries long debate within religion because there are more than a few people who will take advantage of the opportunity to use the centralized authority of religion to unscrupulously profit from. Protecting the givers by decentralization (beginning with their money apparently) is a way to a more democratized religion where any controversies or disputes can be resolved by the faithful.
In case you are wondering, Liston claims he has no intention of profiting from this new financial-religious model. The skeptics among us would argue that many causes have begun with noble intentions, only to find themselves knee deep in financially or morally compromising positions. Whatever you may think of Liston or his idea for a democratized religion, he does speak to more than a few people who have had it with the shysters and thieves who gain the confidence of the believers, who later discover that the message they have been hearing is only a front for lining the pockets of those in authority.
But belief is what any religion is about, and what every legitimate and illegitimate message sender needs, is followers. This is all new stuff to most people, and as with all things associated with finances, timing is everything. Whether Liston is too early with his message will be revealed soon.