Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology seeks to provide the first unbiased and holistic overview of the divisive faith that is Scientology. Reitman focuses on five key elements of the Scientology story: a history of the religion's rise, as well as the rise of its creator, L. Ron Hubbard; a detailed account of the vicious internal coup by current leader, David Miscavige; the sad and shocking story of the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson; an outline of the controversial "celebrity strategy"; and multiple narratives detailing the current mass exodus from a corrupt and abusive church.
Narrator Stephen Hoye does an excellent job with the book, which presents many unique challenges. He successfully tackles a wide range of subject matter from Hubbard's sterile, futurist terminology to some of the more personal, emotionally gripping stories. Hoye serves as a calm voice of reason, guiding us through a potentially confusing world of Orgs, Tech, and more acroynms than a high-level business meeting.
The picture that emerges is a multifaceted one. Outsiders with cursory knowledge of the faith generally associate it with a crackpot Sci-Fi writer looking to make a buck, brainwashing techniques, salacious scandals, never-ending lawsuits, and a creation myth featuring aliens, volcanoes, and movie theaters. While Reitman doesn't exactly dispel these notions completely, she does provide rich historical background and a true look inside this mysterious faith. The truth about the religion, after all, is much more complex than what's presented on the surface.
The promises of Scientology range from the enriching (freedom from mental and emotion anguish) to the humanitarian (providing aid to developing countries and ways out of drug addiction) to the transcendent (immortal life, free of an earthy body). While people are drawn to the faith for all kinds of reasons, Reitman shows us that most Scientologists are just normal people trying to do good in the world and better themselves. Unfortunately, some of these people have been swept up in a devastating new movement within the upper ranks of the church, which has become increasingly obsessed with greed, domination, and power.
Perhaps the most artful facet of this book is that, in true journalistic style, Reitman does her best to simply present the facts and leave the conclusions to the listener. After all, like Hubbard used to say, "What's true is what is true for you." Gina Pensiero
Scientology, created in 1954 by a prolific sci-fi writer named L. Ron Hubbard, claims to be the world's fastest-growing religion, with millions of members around the world and huge financial holdings. Its celebrity believers keep its profile high, and its teams of "volunteer ministers" offer aid at disaster sites such as Haiti and the World Trade Center. But Scientology is also a notably closed faith, harassing journalists and others through litigation and intimidation, even infiltrating the highest levels of government to further its goals. Its attacks on psychiatry and its requirement that believers pay as much as tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for salvation have drawn scrutiny and skepticism. And ex-members use the Internet to share stories of harassment and abuse.
Now Janet Reitman offers the first full journalistic history of the Church of Scientology, in an even-handed account that at last establishes the astonishing truth about the controversial religion. She traces Scientology's development from the birth of Dianetics to today, following its metamorphosis from a pseudoscientific self-help group to a worldwide spiritual corporation with profound control over its followers and even ex-followers.
Based on five years of research, unprecedented access to church officials, confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is the defining book about a little-known world.
©2011 Janet Reitman (P)2011 Tantor
"A detailed and readable examination of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church, and his successor, David Miscavige." (Publishers Weekly)
Reitman has given us a masterfully researched and compellingly written book. I found it riveting and impossible to stop listening. Very well read as well.
This is the first of three major books regarding Scientology that I have purchased to listen to this year and I believe I got off to a great start with Janet Reitman's excellent book on the subject.
As a longtime crusader for the rights of all, I often found myself publicly defending (vocally and in written blog articles) Scientology and Tom Cruise for their outspoken opinions regarding the drugging of our children with prescription drugs, the drugging of america, psychiatry, and other issues that I have had strong opinions about for years.
Some of the concepts of Scientology I agree with; however, they go way beyond reasonableness and as a result many people apparently have been injured or lost their families, friends, or even their lives as a result of the extremeness of the church.
Reitman clearly has done her homework and clearly demonstrates that Scientology goes way too far on many social issues and appears to be a very extreme organization that hides behind the label of "religion." By claiming to be a religion and having tax-exempt status from the IRS, they have managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the general public and government officials all too often.
They use their "religion" label to hide behind billions of dollars in profits without paying taxes; they hide their human rights abuses of their members; and there are clearly people who died in the name of Scientology (such as Lisa McPherson) who I am convinced would be alive today if it weren't for the extreme policies and procedures of this so-called religion.
I will try to hold final judgment on Scientology until after reading "Going Clear," by journalist Lawrence Wright, as well as "Beyond Belief," by Jenna Miscavige Hill, but I think perhaps Reitman may have already convinced me about what I currently think about Scientology, and it isn't pretty. Scientology may very well be responsible for some of the most serious cover ups of all time!
The narrator, Stephen Hoye, was phenomenal in helping tell Reitman's story about a book that should have been published more than a decade ago!
As you listen to this book you wonder just HOW so people can give their lives and souls to such a corrupt organisation and laughably silly "religion". You will hear how absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. The narration is excellent considering this is non-fiction - the narrator captures the emotions and desperation of some of the protagonists of the account very well.
Despite Scientology providing so ammunition for the author to attack with, the author does try credibly well to produce an balanced account - indeed some of the "pro" Scientology accounts are some of the most interesting parts of the book - where current Scientologists come across as deluded optimists. The scariest part of the book was in the final few pages when a current 2nd generation Scientologist declares they want to study law and be a judge. After listening to this book, you want no one from this religion in any kind of position of authority, let alone a judge!
This book gave comprehensive and unbiased insight into Scientology. Beginning with LRH's biography, this work was an easy-to-follow examination of the "religion".
Through Reitman's work, we see how Scientology has evolved from the 50's to present day. We hear from ex-scientologists, current scientologists, and obtain a deeper understanding of the bizarre and abstruse movement.
An informative and engrossing listen - I would recommend to anyone who has ever been perplexed by the continued existence of Scientology.
"Inside Scientology" is a solid, well-balanced and thoroughly researched investigative report on Scientology. In addition to covering the history and background of the organization and the man who created it, it delves into the lives of people who were (and in some cases, still are) victims of this organization's manipulative tactics.
Parents of susceptible teens would be wise to get this book for their children. In fact, society as a whole would benefit from using this book in schools to caution children/teens of the predatory nature and techniques of cults.
In general, this book is an extremely interesting listen and I highly recommend it. It was reminiscent of Barbara Demick's "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea", which I also recommend.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
It continues to amaze me how my reading habits seem to line up with the other reviewers that I follow; with that in mind, let me say that Melinda just wrote an excellent review on this book yesterday; so I'm just going to add my additional two cents.
I want to stress that as a religious person myself, I know there is a HUGE difference between what an individual person interprets their religious views to be and the actions of some people running the "church institution". Religion is the set of beliefs in an individual's heart and mind that guides them to be the best person they can be. Churches are fallible, man made organizations that are susceptible to corruption. When I reference Scientology here, I'm referring to the fallible man-made organization, not any individual that uses that word to describe the set of beliefs they use to to guide them in trying to be kind and useful.
As referenced in other reviews, this can be DRY reading. I especially had trouble getting through the first two or so hours; I thought I wasn't going to make it. Then it picked up a little and became more interesting, while still admittedly dry. I hovered between giving the narration a 2 or a 3, but decided that My Hoye did the best he could have with the material he was working with.
I found it fascinating that Scientology was never meant to be a religion; that it was always a money making scheme, and they decided to categorize it as a church to avoid the regulatory issues they were having with the fact that their "councilors" had no legitimate accreditation, and also to avoid paying taxes. Saying they were a religion helped with both these issues. Being from Phoenix, I also found it fascinating to find out that L Ron Hubbard spent a little time living here while setting up the church, which I'd never known.
If you're picking up the book because of certain current events going on in the news, particularly a certain divorce in the headlines, I'll admit this book gives you a lot of information regarding some of the specific concerns or accusations that are flying out there. In particular, the book spends a good deal of time going over the inception and first few years of "Sea Org", which is the ship based program that (if you believe the stories) is one of the main concerns in the current divorce; the fact that the mother is concerned that her daughter was soon to be sent to this program.
The other big take away I had from the book is how little L Ron Hubbard had to do with what the church is currently; how out of touch with it he was in his last years of life, with other power players taking the helm.
Do you want to read this? I don't know. It's dry, it's very detailed, but I'm glad I did; I found the information was good and it gave me a lot that I didn't know before. It's certainly not a light beach read, but if you're really interested in learning more about how this organization morphed into what it is, it certainly gives you that.
I am a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and author of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices, and The Bombast Transcripts.
This is an excellent unpacking of one of America's foremost cultural train wrecks. I hope it's true that the power and reach of this twisted organization are on the wane, but I'm not holding my breath. I knew about some of the material in this book, but a lot less than I thought I did. The chapters on the murder of Lisa McPherson are especially gripping - and tragic. btw, the narrator also read The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, which leant this an extra measure of creepiness for me.
Haven't read the print version -- the audio version kept me listening long after I should have turned it off and started doing something else!
There was no favorite character -- the people described in story range from kind of pathetic to downright scary. I've heard many negative things over the years about Scientology, this just confirmed what I've heard in the past. I finished the book wondering how anyone could be pulled into such a money-centric "church".
Haven't listened to any of his other books. He did a great job reading this one.
I didn't laugh or cry, I just kept asking myself, "how could anyone get pulled into this organization, and not see Scientology for what it is -- a huge money making operation????
I used this as my "commuting" book, and I'm sure I looked a fool, driving down the highway with my jaw hanging open the whole time. The book is a fascinating glimpse into this movement--fascinating and disturbing--and seems to be unbiased in its research. The narration was also well-done, in my opinion, and I felt the writing was pretty good. The only thing I wished for was an index of the innumerable acronyms, but I realized finally that I didn't really need to keep them straight in order to follow the story--and that was an interesting fact, in an of itself. I highly recommend this book.
Tracing Scientology from its beginning to the present, this book answers many of the questions I've had about this strange belief system, beginning with a look at its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.. Also fascinating: the trial of the Florida woman whose death is, apparently, directly attributable to Scientology -- and the celebrity campaign. The book makes it clear that this is a business, not a religion - and one that employes the most brutal and cutthroat tactics to ensure its profitablilty.
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