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The Church of Fear Audiobook

The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology

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Publisher's Summary

Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree.

Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on, and followed, and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera, and his infamous 'exploding tomato' clip was seen by millions around the world.

In The Church Of Fear, Sweeney tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind's problems.

This is the real story of the Church by the reporter who was brave enough to take it on.

John Sweeney is a reporter for BBC Panorama. He is the author of six previous books including the novel Elephant Moon.

©2013 John Sweeney (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

What the Critics Say

"A bold and swashbuckling reporter...let him shout: at least he shouts the truth." (Mail on Sunday)
"Gripping." (The Economist)
"A brave book." (Liverpool Daily Post)
"Blackly comic." (The Humanist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (129 )
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4.2 (118 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Rabid Readers Reviews Ontario 09-15-15
    Rabid Readers Reviews Ontario 09-15-15

    Avid Reader

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    "Interesting look into a secretive religion..."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    "The Church of Fear" gives readers a little known look into a well known but little talked about religion in which members are secluded from the unbelieving family members and forced to pay exorbitant improvement fees. Scientology's cult status is clearly with each page.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John Sweeney was a favorite in his no holds barred quest for the truth.


    Have you listened to any of John Sweeney’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not. In "Church of Fear" Sweeney was energetic and fired by his convictions which made for a fascinating listen.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "You can join but you can never leave."


    Any additional comments?

    “Church of Fear” by John Sweeney is a wonderfully interesting and informative read. If you’re interested in cults, human nature and organizational control pick the book up today and if you’re in the mood for a special treat, be sure the version you buy is the audio book.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chortle327 07-08-16
    Chortle327 07-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "North Korea undercover is much better"

    I got this book because I found his book on north Korea to be eye opening.
    This book is not nearly as good.
    It reads like bad daytime TV and doesn't give you the feeling of objectivity.
    I'm not a member of the organisation in question, nor have I ever been. But it's defenders in this book have a point: it does seem as if Sweeney came in knowing the story he wanted to tell, rather than attempting to find fact.

    If he were interested in truth (rather than an exposé) then I believe he would have dealt with people differently.

    In his defence, I'm not a journalist and maybe his approach is normal.

    But it didn't sit well with me.

    I've lived most audible books I've bought.

    I'll be returning this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella Ella 06-26-16
    Ella Ella 06-26-16
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    "Probably better in print"

    This book is less of an in-depth expose on the inner workings of Scientology and more of an account of how the author was blocked from being able to do much of a real investigation at all, stalked, disparaged, and subjected to intimidating behavior. While that story is compelling and a nice compliment to books written by ex-Scientologists, it didn't translate well to audio format. Sweeney doesn't often distinguish between voices, which makes the frequent interviews and conversations in which people interrupt and talk over each other nearly indecipherable. I can't recommend the audio version for this reason.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Augustus Mission, BC CAN 05-26-16
    Augustus Mission, BC CAN 05-26-16 Member Since 2011
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    "Melodramatic and Repititive"
    What disappointed you about The Church of Fear?

    Sweeney largely telling the story in reading transcripts of interviews he did with the BBC. His "investigative journalism" comes down to making confrontational allegations and waiting for a dramatic response. Many of the so-called interviews end up being nothing more than childish arguments. "The church is a cult." "No it's not." Back and forth. For variety, Sweeney is repeatedly accused of being a bigot by church officials and the "No I'm not" and the "Yes you are" go on quite tediously. Have not watched too many BBC investigative series and Sweeney is most certainly not polished or sophisticated in his interviewing techniques. Really quite tedious. Listened with 90 minutes to go and finally resorted to searching the Internet for some context and found a couple of much shorter documentaries on line that summarized the issues neatly and to my satisfaction.

    I would certainly not recommend this audio book to anyone.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Shafer Colorado Springs, CO 01-27-16
    C. Shafer Colorado Springs, CO 01-27-16 Member Since 2013

    Craft-a-holic

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    "Informative but didn't like author"

    This is very imaginative book. I'm not a fan of this author though. At times I had difficulty following along when her would go over past conversations. All in all though, a very good listen ..

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 01-26-16
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 01-26-16 Member Since 2008
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    "Frankly, A Bit Tedious"

    Listen to/read the book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" before tackling this book. "Going Clear" will give you a solid background into the history of LRH and the Church as well as several of the higher-ups, places and activities described in Church of Fear. I say the book is tedious to listen to because Sweeney spends much of the book reading transcripts of his interviews where people are constantly interrupting one another and speaking in sentence fragments. These interviews would be difficult to follow if you could see the different people talking. When it's just Sweeney reading all the parts it's a mess. If you have some background with the story of Scientology it will make some sense. If you are not familiar with the COS then it will simply be incredibly confusing.

    I gave it three stars which is probably generous. I did that because what does come through is just how disturbing this experience was for Sweeney. Sweeney comes off as very authenticate. If Sweeney had made an effort to provide his readers/listeners some context for the Church and the interviews it probably would have worked. As it was, I'm sorry I wasted a credit even though I purchased it on the 3 for 2 deal.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda 12-10-15
    Linda 12-10-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Wonderful story"
    Where does The Church of Fear rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It would rank a 3 for me. I haven't read a lot about this subject, but I am trying to get a grip on the subject. Most of the books on this subject seems to repeat the others.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Hard at times to keep up with who is saying what. Speaking very fast.


    What does John Sweeney bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't think I would have read very much of the book itself..


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    As most people, I believe, knows that scientology is a cult. Why is the FBI doing nothing about it. Any church I go to does not ask my past or record my confessions. I know they are teaching from the Bible. Your personal choice is to believe or not believe.


    Any additional comments?

    The books I have listened to so far bring Tom Cruise and John Travolta up a lot. They are not the only people in scientology. I have seen a lot of clips with Tom and he does seem to be a little off in the head. But John seems to just keep away from the press getting on with his life and his loss.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bozidar Apple Valley, MN, United States 08-28-16
    Bozidar Apple Valley, MN, United States 08-28-16 Member Since 2007
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    "2 sticks of Dynamite!"

    Writer lost me early on after the claim that somebody stuck two sticks of dynamite up his nose. I went as far as Googling him, thinking he might have oversized nostrils. he doesn't. Performance is dreadful as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Count B 07-25-16
    Count B 07-25-16 Member Since 2015
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    "CHURCH OF FEAR IS WHAT IT IS!"
    Any additional comments?

    Scientology is a sick cult, the author spent many years on this story & takes you deep inside this sick cult of greed, power & misery. It will open for eyes & most certainly shock you that this criminal organisation can call itself a religion & damage so many peoples lives. A shocking true story that will captivate you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-04-16 Member Since 2015
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    "An eye opener. Thank you."

    This is a great book with a thought-provoking message about religion and cults. Where is that line? Have we all grown tolerant of cult activities in our churches because we just got used to it? This extreme case of a cult should make us examine all our organized churches.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • iris
    Paris, France
    6/11/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Love the subject; less impressed by narration"

    The relevations in this book of scientology are really fascinating and it is hard to believe the nonsense to which people are not only prepared to adhere but to pay vast sums of money not to mention the fact they can cut themselves off from family and friends. It was well-researched too. What I found rather irritating was the author's constant overuse of certain expressions such as 'creepy' or 'strange' and his similies also tended to be way over the top. His writing is full of hyperbole and on many occasions he cannot resist his own self-aggrandisement which is tiresome - his high IQ, his string of dangerous assignments. His voice is more suited to doing voice-over on images and it should have been toned down for audio reading where the relationship with the reader is more intimate. I do believe, in spite of my criticisms, that he is on the whole sincere in his wish to expose the 'church' as a sect or cult.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • David
    7/16/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Truly Bonkers"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a great insight into a truly bonkers world. Although John Sweeney makes it clear that there was much more that could have gone into the book, due to the litigious nature of the church the content was restricted. For me, this actually worked really well as it made the book far more powerful and personal because everything was based on hard, in your face evidence.

    And John, don't feel bad about exploding like a tomato, I thought you were really rather restrained!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Eamon Green
    Newark, UK
    7/16/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An mind-blowing and compelling insight"
    If you could sum up The Church of Fear in three words, what would they be?

    Compelling, insightful, provocative


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Church of Fear?

    Mike Rinder's interview with John Sweeney after exiting the church.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The car chase.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Y.S.C.O.H.B


    Any additional comments?

    A fascinating insight into the alleged dangerous cult of Scientology which causes one to reflect on what drives people to believe such outragous beliefs and demonstrates the need to teach ourselves and our kids the importance of critical thinking.
    It left me wanting more and wondering if we are about to witness the self-distruction of the Church of Scientology.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Andrea O.
    7/4/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Captivating Listen"

    I always wanted to know more about Scientology and now I do.
    John Sweeney's first hand account of his interactions with the "church's" members is riveting. It is an excellent listen and many times I shouted aloud at how unbelievable some of his accounts were at how he and others were treated by scientologists.
    Ironically this is the only audiobook I've ever had trouble downloading...and stopped working twice! They are controlling the book or a weak internet connection...hopefully the latter! ;)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • D. WARD
    UK
    3/5/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good subject, bad delivery"
    Would you try another book written by John Sweeney or narrated by John Sweeney?

    I wouldn't like to listen to him narrate any other books.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    How could the performance have been better?

    Sweeney's performance is over the top, irritating and very distracting. I found it really annoying and this particular book would have better to read in print for that reason.


    Do you think The Church of Fear needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes, but with another narrator.


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting subject to cover but it was hard going because of Sweeney.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dee Gee
    Peterborough, UK
    2/24/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "It's my turn to speak now"

    I know it sounds like an obvious thing to say, but whether this book is for you or not largely depends on what you expect to get out of it. If you are hoping for a detailed analysis of Scientology and its tenets, or a recounting of some of the more outlandish speculations regarding the church, you’ll leave feeling somewhat disappointed. And there are much better books for that, such as “The church of Scientology: A history of a new religion” here on audible.

    What you do get is a very personal, wild and often darkly funny view of a reporter’s interactions with various members of said church, made all the more personal by the fact that the author is also the narrator. This is both good and bad. At times he gets so excited that he speaks very rapidly and his words run into each other with the same kind of frequency that he runs into members of the church. Consequently it can be difficult to follow. But you can’t help but get swept up in it all as he tries to deal with some really quite bizarre situations, and eventually just loses the plot completely.

    There are also points where you feel the author is bending over backwards to appear to be fair whilst giving you a nudge or two - and a wink for good measure. Phrases like “they might have been from the church” really translate as “they were from the church. They know it. I know it. You know it. Your Uncle Tom knows it. But I’m from the BBC and I can’t prove it. So I’ll just throw a might in there. Balance achieved.” So although it includes interviews and comments from the Scientology side of the fence, it’s really a very one-sided piece.

    The author also seems to take an absolute delight in trying to force any member of the church to say the word “cult”. At first it’s quite funny but after a while you sort of wonder what the point is. Mr Sweeney makes a compelling argument that they are a cult and is clearly firmly convinced that they are. But even if he had got one active member to agree, I’m not sure it would really prove much.

    Overall I enjoyed the book, albeit with a certain sense of morbid fascination at some of the tales. However, I listened to it in small doses which I feel is possibly the best way. The excited narration can get a little overbearing during long listening sessions, particularly in the full-on arguments that devolve into two people just yelling the same thing at each other over and over again, or yelling it’s their turn to speak now.

    It certainly gives an interesting and unique view of the church and some of its key members. It manages to be funny at times and heart wrenching at others when you hear some of the alleged (nudge, nudge) activities of the church. If the idea of such a personal view of Scientology appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dr. Simon G Bell
    10/7/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Insights into fear and moral capture"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Interesting listen but I think that authors really need to think before they decide to read their own stuff. John has a good voice but I would have preferred a more measured emotion on display. Got in the way.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John!


    How could the performance have been better?

    Less emotion in the read.


    Was The Church of Fear worth the listening time?

    Yes. There is a subtle story here about brain washing. Most people think it is like forcing a mind down tramlines. This would be obvious in a victim. In this church the BW is much more real and subtle. The idea is to make the victim internalise the message of the church and own it as their own ideas. They might say: "These are my ideas .. I just noticed that the church had them too". This is very powerful as a device to draw a mind in and orientate it to easy ideas to start with .. but then make the mix more potent. I can see how this is done in a gradual way and I think that Scientology is just an extreme form of mind control that we see all around us just about every day.


    Any additional comments?

    I wonder how many other institutions could be approached as employing BW in the subtle form. I would like to read more about that.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Antony
    9/9/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating"

    Whatever scientologists believe, and whether or not scientology is a cult, the real fascination for me is in the utterly unreasonable behaviour of Tommy Davis and his cronies in the way they relentlessly attack the Panorama team with illogical, hypocritical nonsense. John Seeeney snaps, but only long aftet the point where I - and most others - would have done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew
    London, United Kingdom
    9/4/15
    Overall
    Story
    "The Emporer's new clothes"

    Wonderful book. Sweeney has a manhood made of Brutish steel too take on this brainwashing cult.
    the world can only improve with the death of religion, with these cults top of the list.
    looking at the main character's lives now most have left the cult, the scam is laid bare for all too see.
    I'd like Sweeney to tackle Catholicism next.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • didgerman
    8/30/15
    Overall
    "Very good, but also terrible.."

    A brilliant work on an awful subject. Well worth a listen if you feel happy go lucky about this twisted cult.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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