Okay, I admit it, I am a sucker for books about the weird stuff people choose to believe in, and the origins of those beliefs, so I was definitely in the target audience for this book. I was fascinated by the details of LRH's biography (both the real and invented) and by the details of the Church's workings. But I have to admit, my favorite thing about the book was that, after every claim that might remotely raise an eyebrow, the author would drop a footnote: "[insert celebrity's name here]'s lawyers deny that [celebrity] ever __________." The narration was good, if occasionally monotonous (after all, how many times CAN you say "_____ denies ever doing ____"
Both this book and the one by Janet Reitman are must reads for anyone curious about Scientology. Wright is an outstanding reporter whose earlier book, The Looming Tower, was a masterpiece.
The narration is excellent and well captured the tone of the book's characters.
After finishing I was still left wanting a fuller explanation of how non-damaged adults could remain in an organization that has so much underlying sadistic behavior toward underlings and how it succeeds in keeping its practices away from its naive members.
After you finish this book and Reitman's, look up the Lisa McPhearson articles in the St Petersburg Times called The Truth Rundown.
All in all an informative if disturbing book.
On the reading, Morton Sellers gives a solid performance. He knows when to subtly emphasize a point, and subtly takes on the emotion of the speaker when necessary. This not the first performance of his I have heard, and I think his voice is better suited for non-fiction.
In Going Clear, Lawrence Wright gives the full history of L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, and the dogma they have forged known as Scientology. Call Scientology what you want - a religion, a cult, a self-help philosophy - it is all of those things. It is also based entirely on fiction - a science fiction its founder (L. Ron Hubbard - d. 1986) and his successor (David Miscavige) have forged together.
The two of them have employed Scientology's clergy, the Sea Org, to protect this fiction from not only the public, but most of Scientology's own membership as well. For this, Sea Org members are not rewarded, but are instead subject to horrible punishment - all in the name of protecting the leaders and furthering the Church's aims. The Church's cult of personality is certainly reminiscent of the worst totalitarian regimes of the last 100 years.
Wright systematically breaks down almost every single event in Hubbard's extraordinary life (that is, his life according to Scientology's official records anyway), showing that most of it was a lie. A lie, but an incredibly interesting lie. A lie that provides the foundation for ALL of Scientology's teachings. I found myself both horrified and fascinated at how a man like Hubbard - with MAJOR mental issues and a propensity to alienate those closest to him - attracted so many followers. In my opinion, we have much to learn about humanity from Hubbard's life story.
Interwoven with the story of Scientology and its masters is the story of many current and former members - including Cruise and Travolta, whom Wright does not let off easy.
Wright also delves into Miscavige's tenure as the leader of the Church. Several ex-Scientologists claim the reason they left is because of his policies, saying the group has gone awry from its original teachings. Wright makes clear that it was always this way - Miscavige is Hubbard's logical successor, employing similar Machiavellian leadership tactics. That being said, Wright has much sympathy for its former members - they have all endured much personal hardship to get out, and were kept completely in the dark about the Church's inner workings.
It is impossible to know what lies ahead for the Church of Scientology. Public opinion has never been in its favor. It has always been subject to innumerable expository news stories, court challenges, and TV interviews with famous members. These will undoubtedly continue, and likely ramp up in the coming years. Somehow, they have endured for more than 60 years, with some second-generation members now having families. Though they have had some notable losses, they still have two very powerful spokesmen, and several others as well. This Wright makes clear - its true believers will never back down, and they will keep Hubbard's place set at the dinner table.
This expose, written in thriller novel style, was so intense I had to stop listening a few times and "shake off" the woogies. Terrifying that systems like Scientology can suck people in...like quicksand...the harder they struggle, the deeper they get. And the Hollywood conspiracy of silence is sickening. The most unexpected revelation was the homophobia of Scientology...didn't see that coming.
I watched Alex Gibney's documentary before listening to this book and was fascinated and horrified in equal measure. this book is fantastic, well written and impeccably researched (not a surprise, since Wright regularly contributes to the New Yorker) and also not sensationalist. he definitely tries to bring a fair report about the chimerical life of L Ron Hubbard and the effect that scientology has had on its most ardent followers, both the celebrities and the "normal" people. very interesting and scary both. I highly recommend!
I really enjoyed description of the accounts and personal relationship each person had with the church. Also that it was written as a storyteller and not a one-sided monologue. Really makes you think about your own spirituality too.
This could have been a great book, and parts of it were. But the author spent too much time on a small number of things, making the entire book drag on. Also, the reader had no inflection, making it difficult to listen to.
The first part of the book is the biography of L Ron Hubbard. I understand why he needs to be discussed, but there was just too much. I don't need to know every little detail about his life. It was tiring and rather boring.
The second section is early Scientology after LRH's death. A lot could have been done here. However, there was little coherence. Instead, the book jumped from topic to topic and person to person with no break in the flow. Perhaps it would have been better in book form, where spaces can be added between sections to mark breaks. As an audiobook, there is no obvious break, making everything flow together.
The last bit of the book could be called "The Tom Cruise section," since that's who is discussed more than anyone. I get that Cruise is a big-name Scientologist. Who cares? The book makes it clear that his experience with Scientology is very different from the normal person, so what is the point of discussing him so much? His experience is not an indication of what Scientology is like.
I would not, as the footnotes included in the audio version can sometimes be a distraction from the history it tells.
The details the author was able to come up with, as well as his clear effort to get the Scientology side of the story. While critical, it is not without sympathy in its own way to LRH and some of what the church has done.
The narrator was exceptionally good. The epilogue to the book provides context and balance. This organization is truly scary, and having a good, journalistic investigation is eye-opening.