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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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The Church of Intimidation, Deviousness and Evil

I would recommend choosing the audiobook over the printed version of "The Church of Fear" as you can hear in the authors own voice his mix of outrage, paranoia and sense of seemingly impending insanity as he details his encounters with this sinister religious scam. John Sweeney is the BBC journalist who went viral on YouTube in 2007 after he lost his temper in a shouting match with scientology (I refuse to capitalise this evil organisation's name) representative Tommy Davis. "The Church of Fear" details the behind the scenes tale of the making of BBC's documentary on scientology.
Unlike other recent books on scientology, particularly Janet Reitman's "Inside scientology", where the authors make a decent stab at impartiality, John Sweeney's book is deliciously biased, and to be fair, he's completely justified to take this approach - the evidence he presents of intimidation, spying, threats, "legal" bullying and psychological warfare perpetrated by scientology to scuttle the BBC documentary left him in a state of paranoia, confusion and awe at his subject's cunning and deviousness.
If you already know about the evils of the people running scientology then there's nothing new here, but the account of someone who finds themselves caught in a maze of despicable, tawdry and sinister behaviour makes this account well worth the listen / read. It will leave you wondering at the appalling cowardice of US government organisations like the IRS who continue to refuse to put scientology in its place - which should be a bizarre footnote of history, but instead continues to function as an untaxed business / scam started by a bad science fiction writer who has proved that vulnerable people will literally fall for the craziest stuff imaginable.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Scary look into cult

Great job John Sweeney! You braved a journey most would fear to make. A truth seeker does not a bigot make

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Real Life Suspense

Usually, I don't like when authors narrate their own books, but this one works. I found the whole thing suspenseful and I couldn't wait to get back to it each evening. I'd seen the Panorama broadcast long before choosing this audio book. I can report that the book had more in depth. It was probably made better because I could see the interviews he relates in my mind's eye. So I think the film and the book complement each other.

All in all an exciting story.

In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Michael Moore and Bowling for Columbine.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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 ..

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • DJM
  • Franklin, TN USA
  • 01-26-16

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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In-depth, Insightful, Informative

Any additional comments?

John Sweeney knocked this out of the park. The narration was magnificent! For anyone interested in an in-depth look at what many experience in the Church of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, and what it's like to 'blow', this is your book. Parts were heart breaking as families are torn to shreds. Most of it is frightening as the leadership of the church will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who dares to leave or defy it.

I've watched the videos of John Sweeney and the "going tomato" episode. I for one felt it was illustrated the tactics they use to break a person down. While Sweeney expresses regret at the melt down, I found it profoundly helpful in understanding how they work a person into utter madness. He didn't look like a madman, he looked like any one of us would in the same circumstance. But now that I've seen it, I feel it might actually have equipped me to manage such an encounter.

Sweeney asks the questions that have been going through my mind since reading Jenna Miscaviage-Hill's book AND Ron Miscaviage's recent release of his book, Ruthless. Both are terrific reads as well and had me asking, "How are Travolta and Cruise able to turn a blind eye to such atrocities in the name of their religion?" And How complicit are they?

After reading Sweeney's book, I'm all the more amazed at the courage it took for Leah Remini to leave so loudly. Her book, another terrific read by the way, is equally eye-opening and disturbing. As an outsider, I kept asking myself why people don't just surround David Miscaviage (literally surround him) and escort him right out the door on his keester. But then, I see the problem at the same time, they are set up to snitch on each other making collaboration a near impossibility.

This is a fascinating read all the way around. Troubling that this cult isn't shut right down here and now. But if people continue to rally and speak up, it's sure to crash at some point.

This still leaves me asking, Where is Shelly?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very insightful

Very informative, well researched and a must read! I feel bad for what John Sweeney had to go through but very thankful that he continued with his research and shed light on Scientology.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 07-16-15

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Dallas Winston 9
  • Dallas Winston 9
  • 02-08-17

Scientology is worse than a War Zone!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Church of Fear to be better than the print version?

Yes, the text was personal to the narrator, who was also the author, so you could tell how personal the whole situation became. How he and Scientology were at war with one another was good, though it was such a aristocratic war I couldn't help but laugh at how pompous they all were at times.

Who was your favorite character and why?

This is a personal account so I'd have to say Sweeney. Paranoid at times, angry at others he was also genuine and passionate, if a little dorky now and again. He knew his subject well and was able to highlight how he struggled during some interviews, what he had to deal with who can blame him, but he also used hindsight effectively to elevate his arguments later on. Just for the record, I think he won the war of words.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes. John Sweeney drew on research effectively he described the scenes vividly.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were some moments of shock for me. I could also understand why John became so angry.

Any additional comments?

The book is basically exploration of Scientology as a cult. It highlights how the system works, mind control, mental prisons etc it covers what scientologist believe, that is, if you can believe what they believe, it's a bit out there. It was a informative listen. Though I would like to have heard him interview Scientologists from a wider range of people. enjoyed this listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrea O.
  • 07-04-16

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! ;)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Antony
  • 09-09-15

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • didgerman
  • 08-30-15

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • 08-10-15

Fantastic

Absolutely enthralling, chose this purely because of the YouTube video and wasn't disappointed. With a wonderful mixture of humour and honesty Sweeney paints a picture that may seem hard to believe but will have you hooked from start to finish.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Eamon Green
  • 07-16-15

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

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  • ReadingWild
  • 07-11-15

Nice one John

The standard of reporting here is of the highest grade, honest, open and human...which is more than you can say about the subject matter...creepy indeed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jude Bailey
  • 06-30-15

Brilliant, funny and scary

Really enjoyed this and loved the way he reads his own work. Found myself giggling along to the relentless questions he puts to the church members. Definitely recommend

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • iris
  • 06-11-15

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • P. Hall
  • 12-07-17

Brilliant Narrative of a Journey Into Terror

What did you like about this audiobook?

As ex-members and critics of Scientology will tell you: "Scientology is ALWAYS worse than you think". I was never bored by this and have found it has even amused those who have dropped by and heard a little of the narrative despite the grim subject matter. I found John Sweeney's performance gripping and honest.

How has the book increased your interest in the subject matter?

I was already very interested inthe dynamics of High Control religious groups, in particular Scientology. Therefore, I cannot claim that it has actually piqued my interest!

Does the author present information in a way that is interesting and insightful, and if so, how does he achieve this?

Yes. Yes I would. I found John Sweeney's descent into "unprofessional journalism" entirely understandable, the story riveting in it's rawness and bleak honesty. It is a direct look into his unfortunate experiences recording the 2007 BBC Panorama program and his own personal aftermath of those traumatic experiences.

What did you find wrong about the narrator's performance?

Very little. I like the cadence and style of the narration.

Do you have any additional comments?

Yes. This is really a must hear audiobook, in my humble opinion. I particularly enjoyed the part when he spoke to Mike Rinder after his 'defection'. I am so glad I got the audiobook rather than the book, which is unusual for me.