Honestly, after what I read in this book, I’m a bit afraid to even put this on the Internet. I will comfort myself in two ways: the first is that this blog doesn’t get read by that many people, so the likelihood anyone from the church launching a malicious campaign against me is low, and the second is that I probably won’t write much about this book anyway. I’ve long been fascinated by this subject, and I’ve wanted to read this book since its release event at BookPeople when I was working there in 2013.
“A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists–both famous and less well known–and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige–tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.
We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.
In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.” —Indieboung.org
It’s difficult, as an intelligent, independent-minded person to understand what draws people into cults like this, especially when it is so blatantly obvious the founder was a pathological liar and mentally unstable. Then again, it’s easy to know that when someone else has done the research for you, and nearly impossible to know it when the truth has been hidden from you. Wright is an award-winning author, and this book was incredibly detailed and researched.
The first third of the book or so is a heavily detailed biography of their founder, L. Ron Hubbard. His lying and make-believe and delusions began long before he started a religion. He was a prolific, and by all account, talented writer across a range of genres, from Western epics to Science Fiction. The problem with this talent, however, is that you probably don’t want a Science Fiction writer to write your religious texts. It calls all of his visions, his research, and enlightenment into question.
It doesn’t help that official records constantly refute the things he claims about himself: where he served in WWII, the injuries he sustained, his ability to heal himself. The fact that he claims he was psychologically evaluated and his mental health cleared when no record of this exists. Time and again Wright relies on his own research and that of those who’ve researched before him to discredit and prove false claims made by Hubbard and the church. Wright’s examination of the claims of both the founder and the church is extensive.
The most disturbing part of this book are the many accounts of human rights violations. Abuse, neglect, imprisonment, kidnapping, and what closely resembles slavery are among the accusations made by former members of the church. I had heard veiled references to the horrors inflicted on adherents to this religion, and I knew that it was difficult for people to leave, but I never imagined the extent to which the depravity goes. It’s my hope that the church embellishes the high numbers of membership they claim to have because it makes my heart knowing there are so many people looking for help in the arms of the church and instead only finding abuse and terror.
Shortly after finishing this book, I began watching Hulu’s The Path, and after reading this book I can definitely pick out which parts of the show’s cult are based on Scientology. It’s an interesting knowledge to have. I love learning new things, even when they’re incredibly disturbing. If you’re interested in this subject, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s difficult to put down, and difficult to believe that it’s actually non-fiction. Wright’s book reads like fiction. It’s intense, engaging, and full of anecdotes and dialogue that pull you as a reader into the story. I haven’t read many books on this subject, but it seems to me that this must be one of the better, more thorough ones.