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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"A detailed and readable examination of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church, and his successor, David Miscavige." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Matt
  • Oregon
  • 08-09-11

My cup of tea.

I am not an ex-Scientologist, I am not a member of any anti-Scientologist organization, and I am not affiliated in anyway with Scientology. I feel I must preface that. :) As one who is interested in many religions, cults and worship practices; this was definitely my cup of tea. The book was well written and the narration was FANTASTIC. Out of pure curiosity, I have visited many ex Scientology websites, watched the YouTube videos from Anonymous and ex members, I have been to the websites about Lisa McPherson and I have read a lot of Hubbard's teachings and information. There is a lot of in-depth information about Lisa McPherson in this book and I must say it was fascinating and of course, sad. The book flows nicely between the past and present and weaves in stories of ex members seamlessly. I was particularly interested Hubbard's relationship with John Whiteside Parsons. Parsons' relationship to the occult and Aleister Crowley was fascinating and did lead me to do some fun research. There are many things that disturbed me about this book, and it was not the writing or the author, it was the alleged forced abortions, abuse of church members, young children being shipped off to live, work obey and dress a tyrannical leader and also, this book does passively imply that Charles Manson may have used Hubbard's techniques in controlling his flock or "family" to commit the infamous Sharon Tate murders. This book delves deep into the realm of Scientology we "outsiders" do not experience and gives first hand knowledge of the inside from ex members, which I very much appreciated. I did not feel the author had contempt or ill will toward David Miscavige, or Scientology in general, but wanted to get to the bottom of the rumors, bad press and basically tell the story of what Scientology is and why Scientology is "a big deal." If you are interested in Scientology, get this book. I definitely wanted to hear more.

90 of 94 people found this review helpful

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Tom Cruise, L. Ron Hubbard, and Xenu

If you're like most people in the 21st century, the image you have of Scientology is probably Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch, while promoting War of the Worlds in 2005 on Oprah. His manic performance while waxing ecstatic over his love for Katie Holmes (wife #3) turned him into a punchline, and this was in the middle of his renewed advocacy for Scientology, a "religion" that is probably most famous for attracting so many Hollywood celebrities, most notably Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but the list is actually quite large.

Of course, this being the 21st century, everyone has access to the Internet and so if you've ever been the least bit interested in Scientology, you have probably also heard about Xenu and "Body Thetans" and all the other stuff Scientologists aren't supposed to learn about until they reach "OT3."

Tom Cruise himself, according to Janet Reitman's detailed history of the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, said "What is this sci-fi bull****?" when the secrets of Galactic Overlord Xenu were finally revealed to him. And yet he went on to become Scientology's most public and effective advocate, and according to Inside Scientology, a one-man cash cow for the church, which has a habit of dramatically overstating its membership numbers.

L. Ron Hubbard himself, a science fiction author who knew all the big names back in the early days of pulp sci-fi, was a huckster, a con-man, and a relent self-promoting machine. You may consider his ethics and the made-up religion he created to be dodgy at best, but you cannot help but admire how he turned every adversity and setback into a win for himself. By the time he died, he was a Christ-like figure to his followers, who made him and his church incredibly rich.

Inside Scientology is not a sensationalistic hit-piece on Scientology. Reitman tries to be as even-handed as possible, but just reporting the plain facts about Scientology, without the church's PR spin or outright falsification, inevitably casts it in a negative light. There are people, even who have left the church, who to this day insist that the "tech" works and that Scientology helped them. Yet the stories of abuse, of milking members for every dime of their savings and then putting them to work in what amounts to voluntary indentured servitude when their money runs out, of distortions and deceptions, of massive, widespread campaigns of organized harassment and gaslighting and ruinous litigation for the sake of destroying the church's enemies, make one wonder how anyone could see the Church of Scientology in a clear light and not see it for what it is? And for that matter, how does anyone in the 21st century with an Internet connection actually join this "religion" (yes, I'm going to insist on putting that in scare quotes), after reading about Xenu?

Well, in short, according to Reitman, Scientology has indeed taken a big hit since the advent of the Internet and the ability of anyone to go on online and read all about their more esoteric/bizarre doctrines and their history. Most new Scientologists today are kids who were raised in the church, and the church does its best to keep its members in a bubble, told to avoid reading critical books or articles or websites and avoid "suppressive personalities" (i.e., people hostile to Scientology). Yet evidently, some are still drawn into it, and the church's "celebrity strategy," which famously netted Tom Cruise, is still keeping their Hollywood org jumping.

Reitman's history goes all the way back to L. Ron Hubbard's early days, and the evolution of "Dianetics" into a full-blown religion. The tactics of the church, which were belligerent and ruthless even in the early days, and led to them essentially bullying the IRS into granting them tax-exempt status in 1993. Reitman is especially critical of Scientology's current leader, David Miscavage, who took over the reins of the church from LRH and is, from Reitman's account, exactly the sort of insecure, micromanaging, thin-skinned egomaniac you never want to see in power.

This is all fascinating stuff, and rather heart-breaking when you see how much damage the "religion" has caused over its relatively brief history. And yet, people still embrace it, even some of its outcasts. Are they really so different from Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or Muslims? All religions have pretty lurid histories and it's easy to portray any of them as terrible, cult-like conspiracies.

I think after reading this book you will see plenty of differences that mark Scientology as... something else. Still, this book is written as a piece of journalism, not a critique, and the church itself was surprisingly cooperative with the author. So if you are interested in that wacky Hollywood religion with its arcane jargon, and don't just want to read a screed by an ex-Scientologist about how awful Scientology is, Inside Scientology is a very good place to start.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • aaron
  • los angeles, CA, United States
  • 03-09-12

Just the Fact That Someone Had the Nuts to....

First off, with all the threats of legal action (and allegedly physical threats as well) it's quite an accomplishment that this book was even written. This book was truly revealing, into just how weird these people actually are. When you find out the past of the guy that created the religion, it will shock you that anyone takes it seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if this book brings down the whole house of cards. I mean, how can you possibly read this and NOT think these people are ignorant sheep at the very least, and clinically insane at the worst??

Just going by what I read in the book, Scientologists. Don't sue me, please.

This is certainly the most well-researched book out there on this subject. The sections about Tom Cruise were quite interesting. Narrarator is outstanding.

36 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Brad
  • Tuscaloosa, AL, United States
  • 11-09-11

The Bernie Madoff meets Michael Corleon Religion

Tom Cruise, Ron L Hubbard and aliens where the only three things I knew about Scientology when I started this book.

However, if Janet Reitman's book is anywhere close to the truth, Scientology is a business that Michael Corleone would be proud "run". As I listened to this book, I continually thought of the scams of Bernie Madoff. Talk about selling absolutely nothing to somebody.... As with the other religions available, there is nothing tangible to show after you donate, tithe or volunteer your time, however, most religions will expect something around 10 percent. This religion is never satisfied until it's followers are broke.

The recruiting methods used to pull big names such as Cruise and Travolta were astounding. The fact that these actors are not aware they were manipulated by people who were strategically placed into their day to day lives is unreal.

This book allows you access to information that 99.99999 % of the Scientology followers can not access.

This book was written and spoken superbly. I have several biopic and historical books in my audio collection. This is the first of that genre that kept me sitting in my vehicle waiting to see what was happening next.

I'm serious, this book reveals a side of this cult that I found quite disturbing.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • G-Man
  • Eugene, Orygun
  • 08-05-11

What a weird story

An in depth and comprehensive story from Dianetics to a corporation seeking tax exempt status as a religion. This story could only be revealed in the age of the internet because the secrets of Scientology can not be hidden so well.
The cat is out of the bag.
The book seems well balanced and factual.
'Very entertaining and weird.

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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Excellent piece of journalism

The author does her best to present the information in an unbiased manner, albeit the listener can't help but draw inevitable conclusions about the Church of Scientology from the facts and eye witness testimony presented within. The book begins with a history of LRH and how the church itself evolved over the years. Although most people will tend to be interested in the later stuff involving Tom Cruise (which is quite fascinating), the author does a good job of covering all aspects of the church's history.

Several themes crop up again and again, among them are the church's insatiable appetite for money collection, repeated use of lawyers to bully church "enemies", and the ultra-secretive nature of the church's "cannon". The author also shows the very subtle way that people are lured into the religion. At the surface the church promotes very practical applications of "LRH technology" such as auditing to rid the mind of unpleasant memories or reading/scholastic programs to help children learn. However, these are merely for show. At the heart of scientology is a manipulative program designed to draw people deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until they end up turning over a significant portion of their income to the church.

All of this is done in a rather entertaining fashion with a really good narrator. Some parts were actually quite shocking. Highly recommended.

33 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • AMERICAN FORK, UTAH, United States
  • 11-13-11

Scientology; Phenomenally & Outrageously Flawed

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I strongly recommend this book to anyone considering joining Scientology or knows someone who is. Fortunately, I learned what a scam they are after feeling worse from their treatments and loosing only $15,000.


Who was your favorite character and why?

At the height of my high-tech career, which was going great, I was suddenly stricken with a suicidal depression, one which lasted 7 years. I went to a psychiatrist, but got only sporadic relief. I foolishly turned to Scientology, and after scoring a “minus 90%” on the optimism-depression scale of their Oxford personality test, I was told that they had a cure and I would really be able to “go places” once they had repaired me. Further, that I had been a victim of psycho-quackery which would never help me (and they were right on this point), but now I had found the source of all healing. I signed up.

After a year of treatments, at $130 an hour, I took their test again and scored a “minus 95%”.
By their own measure, I was even more depressed. I asked,

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

He keeps the listener interested, even when some details seem tedious.

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

It is simply amazing what can be achieved just with BS and PR.

Any additional comments?

Scientology's assertions, methods and planned responses to perceived threats make Bernie Madoff's scam appear downscale, friendly, and amateurish.

32 of 37 people found this review helpful

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If you've ever wondered about scientology, READ.

I have always wondered what Scientology really was.. I've done research on the subject but was never really able to get to the heart of it... This book is written not in a way to convince you one way or the other, but to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself..

It appears Scientology has a very dark side to it. Parts of the story are a little slow moving, but all in all, it's very interesting.

The book explains John Travolta and Tom Cruise connection to Scientology, too..

Interesting book...

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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See K T Run...

This is an "in between read", I just happened to remember stashing away, and pulled it up when the earth-shattering news hit that a very famous couple was breaking up. How timely, and wickedly fortuitous for me.

Any "religion" is vulnerable presented to the world by an author, but Reitman stays respectably and incredibly unbiased, even though presenting some stories and facts that point to some pretty logical conclusions, that more than just slant a little toward the negative side. After reading this book, I am struggling to write an objective review - trying to settle myself with the opposing ideas of respect for all people's belief-systems, and Scientology, whose founder once made the guileful remark, "If you want to get rich,you start a religion". It is a conundrum, matched only by my curiosusity and confusion regarding the secretive Scientologists.

The Publisher's Summary and the Audible Editor Reviews cover the content of this book thoroughly, and I'd suggest reading some of these great customer reviews: Matt/Hood River, Roger/American Fork, Brad/ Tuscaloosa, Baker/ Casselberry. Inside Scientology is presented in a professional journalistic manner. Sometimes the load of information can become a little weighty and routine, more than a person who is just curious may want--especially for 15-plus hours. Reitman is a contributing editor for The Rolling Stone, and I found some of her interviews, as well as some of the articles about Scientology, in The Rolling Stone to be more candid and personable. I enjoy reading about philosophies, religions, theologies, and was therefore occasionally fascinated--particularly with the etiology of the religion and Hubbard's connection to occultist Aleister Crowley (via Jack Parsons). Overall, I came away with a little knowledge and a lot less understanding. Very noteworthy piece of research and journalism, well written and understandable, and fitting narration. Still, I'd only recommend for those that want to know everything available about Scientology, including the minutiae.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very good introduction... an extremely complex subject. Reitman has done her homework and has come out with a fair-minded yet damning excoriation of one of the world's strangest phenomena.

This is a lucid and readable (listenable?) account of Scientology that is, fascinatingly, heavy on facts. Her discussion of the Lisa McPherson case is useful both for its examination of a shocking incident and for what we can infer from it about Scientology and its relationship to its adherents - and to truth.

29 of 34 people found this review helpful