The venture capitalist Peter Thiel appeared in Miami on Oct. 20 at an event billed as a celebration of the future, a coming out party for a self-proclaimed tech hub, and, at least among Thiel’s biggest admirers, something approaching a religious experience.

Thiel is—as I write in my new book, The Contrarian—one of the most successful tech investors of his generation and commands a cult-like following of young, ambitious people who are attracted to his unapologetically pro-Trump conservativism and his belief in the supremacy of technology, and in particular technology billionaires like himself. “Today is a holy day,” Delian Asparouhov, a partner at Thiel’s venture capital firm, Founders Fund, wrote on Twitter. Perhaps in jest (I hope?), he photoshopped Thiel’s face onto a painting of Saint Stephen, holding a skull labeled “Gawker,” in reference to Thiel’s secretive and—within right wing circles celebrated—campaign to destroy the liberal media outlet.

Appropriately, this week’s Q&A with Thiel was billed explicitly as an exploration of “culture, religion, and technology.” The chat was a showcase for Thiel’s current focus as an investor as well as illustration of just how extreme Thiel’s politics have gotten in recent years. It began with a discourse on “freedom” in which moderator Bambi Francisco railed against vaccine mandates. Thiel responded by criticizing the “insanity” of Covid lockdowns and proclaimed himself “really into freedom from taxation.” (You don’t say.) Attendees were also treated to a sort of greatest hits of Thielism. He complained about “political correctness”—the No. 1 political problem in America, he said—called public education a form of “brain washing,” and sounded the alarm about the “deep state.”