A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than 200 personal interviews with both 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.
©2013 Lawrence Wright (P)2013 Random House Audio
“Brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology . . . a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction." (The Washington Post)
“A hotly compelling read. It’s a minutiae-packed book full of wild stories.” (The New York Times)
“An utterly necessary story. . . . A feat of reporting.” (The Wall Street Journal)
I always knew Scientology had some strange beliefs. And just seeing the clips of Tom Cruise on Oprah and with Matt Lauer are enough to see that followers of the "Church" have some pretty strange ideas. But I had no idea how sordid a past Scientology has...and a present for that matter.
If what Mr. Wright has written is true, and based on his thorough footnotes I'd say he is certainly on solid footing, then Scientology was founded by a paranoid delusional and currently run by a dictatorial madman. L. Ron Hubbard made so many outlandish claims about himself that had no basis in reality that it is dumbfounding that anyone would follow the religious tenets the man "discovered." And if his leadership weren't bad enough, the current leader, David Miscavige, is a maniacal tyrant who stoops to physically attacking any person he perceives may be questioning his authority.
Scientology claims that those practitioners at its highest levels actually have the power to control matter, energy, space, and time. And at the same time they claim to be the only religion based entirely on true scientific principles. So guess what? Superheroes are no longer the realm of science fiction. You need only look to Tom Cruise and John Travolta to find men who can bend space and time to their will.
Well researched and written, "Going Clear" offers a fascinating and jaw-dropping view inside one America's strangest religions. The book is both eye-opening and terrifying. To know that in America there is still an organization who can hold people against their will and force them into slave labor is unnerving. I recommend this book to anyone interested in modern religious study and definitely recommend it to anyone who may have a family member being drawn into this dreadful cult.
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 ____"
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked on the same block as the London Headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Pretty much every day, often both too and from the subway station I was approached by cute young things seeking to inveigle me into taking a 'personality test' the first step into the religion. At the time I found this annoying but not actually sinister. Subsequently a couple of friends of mine did get involved peripherally with the organization and they told be horrifying, fascinating tales of how they were ruthlessly pursued for years after only a glancing encounter with the “Church.” Ever since then I have had something of a fascination with this mysterious and dangerous cult.
This book gives a surprisingly even handed account of the life and times of the churches founder L Ron Hubbard, taking us from the it's foundation in the early fifties all the way to the couch-leaping massage-seeking antics of the Churches modern glitterati Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The story is a heady mixture or creepy cult and celebrity machine. It reveals a religion founded on fake science, fake psychology, the manipulation of the young and naive and that most addictive of all drugs… fame. The “Church” as painted in this well written and engaging book has overtones of Hitler’s Germany combined with Apple under Steve Jobs.
It’s well sourced and thoroughly littered with footnotes from the “Church” which fiercely deny each and every well researched accusation and story. There are tales of hubris, violence, abuse which beggar belief. It exposed the weird practices and frankly ludicrous secrets of the organization, prompting the reader to ask over and again…”how could they get away with that?” Perhaps the strangest story is the account of how the Church took on the IRS and beat them at their own game.
If you have ever pondered the weirdness which is Scientology this book will fill you in on the history and hagiography of what has to be the strangest and most successful invented religion since Mormonism. It’s a compelling, strange ride which will leave you shaking your head and maybe reaching for your rosary.
reading is pure joy
belief, betrayal, Totalitarianism
the author -- his relentless pursuit of "what is belief"? Is belief a helpful human condition -- or catastrophic blindness and wishful thinking that harms people? What makes a "religion" ? Beliefs -- when inspected by outsiders -- can seem weird. But bottom line it seems is: is some one free to go/leave the religion -- or not?!
good voice -- must have driven him crazy to keep his tone neutral during parts of this tale of abuses -- but he did. Saying SeaOrg 1000 times must have been a challenge too.
Not really -- too much silliness and disbelief (that people believe this stuff) from me at times -- people sure need SOMETHING to believe in, don't they? The author did succeed in pointing out the aspects of S which do help ordinary people -- just don't get too close to the flame I guess is the lesson for this.
Comprehensive, well paced.
The author has a clear intent of trying to find out why scientology is so fascinating to people, especially when it can be so demeaning. As he walks us through the history and events surrounding scientology we get a well balanced picture of past events and present concerns as well as a balance between biographies of different individuals and the grand narrative of the church. He doesn't get bogged down in the minutia of the scientology religious beliefs but you still walk away with a general understanding of the basics. Nor does he get bogged down in a few key incidents, choosing instead to give a grander narrative and weave all the pieces together.
If you are looking for a good primer on scientology this is it. You won't get all the specifics, but you get a bigger picture of the whole idea of it. I read "Inside Scientology" as well which seemed to be a little too focused on particular events. The Lisa McPherson case takes up at least an hour in "Inside Scientology" but barely 5 minutes in "Going Clear." I also felt like IS gave more specifics as to the beliefs of scientologists. But in the end GC was a better book. It's better written, better paced, and gives a more holistic understanding of the people involved. A good read!
author of books for teens and children
This is an extremely well-researched book about L.Ron Hubbard's life, the history of Scientology, and present-day Scientology. I knew that Scientology was a nutty cult and that Tom Cruise was a pompous idiot, but after reading this book I found out that Scientology was also very frightening and powerful and that Tom Cruise was also a total a-hole.
This audiobook--with its accounts of Hubbard's history of wife-beating and child kidnapping, the horrible abuse and jail conditions inflicted on many people by Scientology leaders, and the huge amounts of money and property held by Scientology leaders--is horrifically frightening. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
I love books (history and fantasy especially), animals, guns, motorcycles, walking in the rain (okay, just kidding about that one)... someone who strives to be a life-long learner.
This book sometimes seemed like watching a horrible traffic accident - you don't want to watch and yet you can't turn your eyes away. The story had so many levels -Though primarily and ostensibly about the history of Scientology, this book is about so much more - religious freedom, first amendment rights, personal freedoms, how and why we make decisions, the power of groups... I will be thinking about this book for a very long time.
I don't typically read books like this (evaluations of modern day societies etc.) as I'm usually afraid they will be extremely biased and sensational. If I had to make a comparison it would be to " Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer.
Probably the meeting with the author (with his publisher and the publishing house lawyers) and Tommy Davis (and the Scientology lawyers) prior to the publishing of an article he was writing for the New Yorker (which was the basis for this book).
There were actually two: 1) the extent of the Church's wealth and 2) the number of members who are people in the "arts"
It is also well written and researched (it has excellent footnotes) and provides as balanced approach as possible considering the subject matter.The narrator was a good choice for this books and while he didn't necessarily enhance my enjoyment of the book, his narration did not detract from it.
My only knowledge about Scientology was driving by their building in Los Angeles and seeing tabloid gossip.
I had NO idea what a crazy group this was.
The book takes you from the beginning of L Ron Hubbard's life to when he wrote science fiction, to when he decided to start a new "religion," to the rise of the "church," to Tom Cruise's marriage with Katie Holmes. (I wonder how the book would have addressed the breakup.) I didn't realize there was a Scientology group who rode the high seas and that there were different "bases" in the United States.
Although their beliefs aren't much different than any other religion, the group is friggin' scary. They hold church members "prisoner" if they do not follow certain standards and they chase down members who leave.
The book gives good examples of how normal people would get caught up in this craziness and crazy became normal.
Thought it was going to be a mild ride through about a wacky cult/religion. I was completely overwhelmed by the history and present day activities of Scientology and its leaders. Completely engrossing and well told. Far darker than I expected. Just awesome.
An extremely thorough, well researched and utterly engaging book. Well written and pulls you in from the first few minutes.
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