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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the…
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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Lawrence Wright

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8856310,006 (4.09)1 / 82
Member:knittingmomof3
Title:Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Authors:Lawrence Wright
Info:Knopf (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Non-Fiction, Sociology, History, Religion

Work details

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (2013)

  1. 00
    Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Two similar journalistic exposes of Scientology, both of which take a surprisingly even-handed view of the group. I preferred Inside Scientology, although both are great primers on what is going on under David Miscavige's regime.
  2. 00
    Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Although he never joined the group, Manson dabbled in Scientology. It is interesting to draw parallels between Manson's treatment of his "Family" and life in the Scientology's Sea Org.
  3. 01
    Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Although Wright missed it completely, Scientology seems to be yet another in a long line of American religions/self-help groups influenced by the Positive Thinking Movement. If you want a wider vision of how these groups function, I highly recommend Ehrenreich.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
After reading insider Jenna Miscavige Hill’s tell-all memoir Beyond Belief about her growing up in the Church of Scientology, I thought it would be a good idea to read something that would give me a slightly more objective view about L. Ron Hubbard and his religious creation. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Knopf, 2013) was just the thing.

In this book, author Lawrence Wright pulls together material from considerable research and numerous personal interviews to tell story of one of the newest and one of the most controversial religions around today. He starts off with Hubbard’s early life and goes into his wobbly career with the U.S. Navy, his involvement with the Occult, and his stormy relationships with his wives (both official and common) and children. This helps the reader really put Hubbard’s science fiction writing, development of Dianetics, and founding of Scientology into a larger perspective.

While at first, Going Clear might appear as a Hubbard biography, later on the book shifts focus, discussing the suspicious take-over by David Miscavige, the church’s turbulent relationship with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, charges of abuse, and other scandals and lawsuits. Wright fills his narrative with testimonies of members past and present, both famous and not-so-much, providing a variety of perspectives about Scientology, its legitimacy, and where it’s headed.

As the work of a previous Pulitzer Prize winner, I wish the book had been a smoother read. It seemed to jump from here to there at times, probably because there was so much information and so many people to discuss. It made it difficult to remember who was who sometimes. However, I really appreciated how Wright took the time to explain a lot of scientologists’ practices and beliefs. One problem I had had with Hill’s book was that she often seemed to assume her readers knew what she was talking about, and the Scientologese (Scientology unique set of acronyms and vocabulary) is not always easy for a casual reader unfamiliar with the religion to remember.

Some readers might take issue with me calling Going Clear “objective,” and I admit that’s a bit of a stretch. A better word choice might be “fair.” Wright lets both side have their say, while he does betray his own position at times. For example, I think he could’ve been more critical of filmmaker Paul Haggis when discussing Haggis’ upset about the church’s support of CA Proposition 8 (2008) concerning the legal status of same-sex marriage. I thought that Haggis’ correspondence with church officials provided an excellent illustration of how celebrities were accustomed to receiving special treatment. Here was one who thought he had a right to demand a change in the church’s doctrine and political position, regardless of the view of the church’s leaders or other members. Haggis’ behavior shows what problems the church faces when constantly catering to high profile members’ sense of entitlement, and I think Wright was too focused on the discussion about the treatment of homosexual members to make observations like these.

I would like to say that, whatever biases might have penetrated the rest of the book, Wright’s conclusion was quite fair. Christian readers might think of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 and how Christianity stands or falls on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when, in Going Clear, Wright notes the significance of a statement made by Scientology’s then-spokesman Tommy Davis. In effect, Scientology stands or falls on Hubbard’s claims that Dianetics helped heal him from his war wounds. As Wright shows, Hubbard unabashedly lied about his war record and exaggerated his health problems. All I can say in response is “Case closed.” ( )
  AnnetteOC | Jun 22, 2015 |
A weird and fascinating glimpse into the world of Scientology.

Like any book, a reader should take an in-depth exposé such as [b:Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief|16142053|Going Clear Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief|Lawrence Wright|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358119149s/16142053.jpg|21973918] as one angle of a multi-faceted religion. Regardless, he does an excellent job relating the life and times of not only the founder of Scientology, but its role in modern history in America. It's a real page-turner, with an interesting analysis in the epilogue. Aren't all religions based on faith-based stories of grandeur and mysticism? What makes scientology any different (other than the claims of human rights abuses and the limited exposure to the arts)?

I don't think I'll ever look at Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise or John Travolta the same anymore now that I see them through the lens of scientologists. ( )
  jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
Acabo de ver el documental. Si me quedaba alguna duda de que eran unos loquitos...
  LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
This was a fascinating, in-depth look at the history of Scientology & L Ron Hubbard. Sometimes brutal, sometimes sympathetic, it seemed to be a fairly unbiased examination of the origins, history, motivations and legacy of the church and it's complicated culture.

I went into this book hoping to understand the plight of those who have escaped the CoS, and felt that it met my expectations wholeheartedly. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the cult mentality, symptoms associated with any kind of exodus from an organization, the mental health of survivors, or the fascinating history of a developing new religion.

The end of the book is full of references and sources (where available). ( )
  heradas | May 31, 2015 |
This book is not only a comprehensive history of Scientology but also a biography of L. Ron Hubbard. It’s amazing that Hubbard went from an author of pulp science fiction novels to the founder of a major religion/cult. I had to wonder if Hubbard was mentally ill and really believed the stories he told about alien overlords ruling over humans millions of years ago. Or was he intelligent and calculating and knew he could make a ton of money off of his ideas?

The aspect of Scientology that was most surprising to me is the horrific abuse that the non-celebrity members endure. They are punished for various transgressions with being made to perform horrible tasks or imprisoned in unspeakable conditions. I had to wonder how this imprisonment is legal. Why don’t the members who have escaped file charges against those in the church leadership. Partly, it’s probably because the church has so much money that they can literally destroy your life if you speak out against them in any way. I was stunned that an organization in the United States can get away with the things they get away with. Their behavior is that of a fascist dictator.

Paul Haggis (director of the movie Crash) was a Scientologist for 35 years before he finally left the church. His perspective on why a seemingly smart person would remain in the church is insightful. I wanted to read more about other celebrity Scientologists. There is a lot of information on John Travolta and Tom Cruise but not much on anyone else. I have to wonder if the celebrities in the church know about how the rest of the church works – the imprisonment, child labor, etc. Are they so brainwashed that they will make excuses for what the author has uncovered? If they choose to remain in the church, I think they have a responsibility to work to reform it and put a stop to the abuse. I’m sure if they threatened to stop the millions of dollars they donate, the leaders of the church would stand up and take notice.

This book is very well-researched, especially considering the fact the church is so close lipped about what goes on behind closed doors. Wright was able to interview several of the former church leaders who have defected over the years. If you want to know the truth about Scientology, this book is your best bet. ( )
1 vote mcelhra | May 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology. Every deceptive comparison with Mormonism and other religions is given a respectful hearing. Every ludicrous bit of church dogma is served up deadpan. This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful.
added by lorax | editNew York Times, Michael Kinsley (Jan 17, 2013)
 
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To my colleagues at The New Yorker
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Scientology plays an outsize role in the cast of new religions that have arisen in the twentieth century and survived into the twenty-first.
London, Ontario, is a middling manufacturing town halfway between Toronto and Detroit, once known for its cigars and breweries.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307700666, Hardcover)

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:34 -0400)

"Based on more than two hundred 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 skills to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; its vindictive treatment of critics; its phenomenal wealth; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard"--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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