This book review appeared on my original blog on June 18, 2015. I am reposting it as is.
I have spent the past few days here in The Netherlands reading all about Scientology. Lawrence Wright, author of 2013’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, was recently made into a documentary for HBO. I am not in a position to watch the documentary, but I could certainly read the book. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, too, which gave me the ability to really pay attention. A lot of people know next to nothing about Scientology. I have been following it for awhile, mainly because my husband, Bill, got interested in it. Bill is a former Mormon and there are some interesting similarities between Scientology and Mormonism, as Wright points out in his book. Both “religions”, for instance, were founded by blatant liars and con men. Both cost a lot of money to be a member. And both can very punitive toward members who go astray.
Lawrence Wright offers a very complete and fascinating history of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. As a kid, I used to see television ads for Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard’s “bible” for Scientologists. Back in the 80s, it was regularly hawked for sale on TV. I remember my former best friend wanting to read it as a kid… talk about dangerous advertising. L. Ron Hubbard was a talented science fiction writer and the religion he founded definitely offered a way for him to sell his books. As a prolific writer, Scientology offered Hubbard a way to make a lot of money… and a lot of money he did make. Scientology was founded in 1954 and it’s a burgeoning religion, especially among entertainers.
I remember this ad so well.
Wright explores the whole weird premise behind Scientology, how it was received by people around the world, and how celebrities came to embrace it. He writes extensively about Tom Cruise and John Travolta, two very high profile Scientologists. He has less to say about Scieftologist celebrities like Will Smith and Kirstie Alley, but then Travolta and Cruise offer plenty of material for a book. There are discussions of the church’s scary legal attacks on critics, political pressure on governments to recognize Scientology as a legitimate religion, and mysterious physical attacks and murders that occurred under shady circumstances. Suffice to say if you aren’t a celebrity, your experience as a Scientologist is not going to be like that of Tom Cruise’s.
Going Clear is fascinating reading. As I paged through it, I found my mouth dropping open. More than once, I told Bill that L. Ron Hubbard was completely psycho. I said more of the same about David Miscavige, the current leader of the church, whose wife Shelly has been missing since 2007. Based on what was reported in Going Clear, it wouldn’t surprise me if Shelly isn’t locked up somewhere kept under guard. Indeed, I have new respect for Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman, although Kidman was apparently blindsided by her divorce from Tom Cruise.
I will admit that I wasn’t totally surprised by what I read in this book. I have read a lot of books about Scientology and a lot of what is in Going Clear was in those other books. On the other hand, a lot of what is in Going Clear surprised me. I mean, I knew it was a nutty belief system, but Wright drives home just why it’s nutty and why it’s really dangerous. It amazes me that in 2015, we have belief systems that get away with some of the blatant criminal activity that is evidently going on in the Church of Scientology. I’m talking about practical slavery and unlawful detention of people.
Wright includes pictures as well as lots of juicy tales about weird shit that went on on the ships Scientology sailed around the world. He includes lots of stories about how Hubbard hoped to take over countries and introduce his belief system around the world. I know religious beliefs are one of those things people tend to respect a lot. Those of you who read this blog regularly already know I have little respect for Mormonism and now I have even less respect for Scientology. It’s a load of hooey.
Anyway, I highly recommend Going Clear. It’s very well-researched, well-written, and fascinating. Let me just put it this way. I got to about 62% on my iPad when I was done with the book. The rest is all notes. It’s very well-documented reading and will give you plenty of follow up reading should you require it.
If you’ve ever been curious about Scientology, you should read this book.
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