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review 2016-04-02 19:19
Even crazier and more upsetting than the documentary
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright

When I first saw the documentary, Going Clear, words couldn't explain my disbelief, anger, and fascination. Before the documentary, I'd always thought that Scientology was silly yet harmless. I had no idea the level of abuse, both physical and mental, that goes on behind the scenes. Celebrities are drawn in by exclusivity and by the time they learn the real story, they're already thousands+ dollars invested, years too. Not only that but the auditing programs where one has to make confessions can be used against them should they choose to abandon the church.


Of course, the church denies all of this.


Going Clear takes you even deeper into the madness and insanity. While the documentary was excellent, it was only--what--two hours? It could only cover so much.


I loved Wright's journalism in this. While indeed higher ups in the church deny all allegations, I never thought for a second that there was an agenda behind Wright's writing, other than to relay experiences from past members and whatnot.


No review of mine can do this justice. Seriously, you have to read it. Especially if you've seen the documentary.


The book paints an ugly, ugly picture. Yet we can't tear ourselves away from it, and even find ourselves more fascinated with the subject.


I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Morton Sellers. He does a fantastic job. While the material itself is truly engaging, a misplaced narrator could've made this a boring listen. Sellers didn't bore me for a second.


I can't recommend this enough.


5 stars

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text 2016-03-24 02:00
Reading progress update: I've read 50%.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright

I loved the documentary... but that doesn't even begin to cover half of the madness! Words can't even begin to describe my horror. You go deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is Scientology, and once you think you've seen it all, something else comes and gut-punches the living crap out of you.


I'm hooked.


The audiobook is great, too.

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review 2015-07-07 13:26
Totally bananas.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright

I admit, the limits of what I know about Scientology comes from magazines, Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch (plus his divorce from Katie Holmes), the rumors about John Travolta's sexual orientation, etc. I don't really follow Hollywood gossip that much and couldn't help but wonder if it's really that weird and strange it is.


Sadly, it apparently is. Author Wright takes us through the origins of Scientology,the life of founder L. Ron Hubbard, the move from Hubbard's leadership to David Miscavige's, the influence of Hollywood (and Scientologist's influence within Hollywood), the lives of members, the extent the "church" (cult, really) will go to keep people from leaving, physically and otherwise.


It's a frustrating read. There are too many parallels to other forms of organized religion, from the followers who are reduced to being paid something like $50 a week while Miscavige spends/spent around 2000-3000 dollars on *food* PER WEEK. The physical and emotional abuse, the isolating tactics, the lack of education that child Scientologists get, the refusal to trust science (there are some really terrible stories about denying people medical help for both physical and mental health issues), etc.


I'll admit, the most interesting parts for me was the Hollywood stuff. The workings of the church made me mad and Hubbard's life wasn't all that interesting (but good to know for background). It was interesting to see the book address issues like Travolta's sexuality, Tom Cruise's marriages and relationships, etc. However, I thought it was odd that a story widely reported did not seem to make it here: Scarlett Johannsson was "courted" by Cruise, and after a 2 hour (!!!) lecture/lesson on Scientology, she was taken to another room where a door opened, revealing high-ranking Scientologists waiting to have dinner with her and Tom Cruise, at which she excused herself and left.


That said, despite the interesting topic, the book is not perfect. Wright is a journalist, and while the style works for a long-form read on a Sunday, sometimes it just doesn't here. He also switches storylines towards the end. We follow Paul Haggis (who is one of the major sources of the book) until Haggis leaves Scientology. Then we get a whole chapter on Tommy Davis, who was a former spokesman. Structurally it doesn't work since we had been following Haggis and I really didn't care about Davis. There's a good epilogue where the author makes some comparisons to other religions and/or cults (one and the same to some!) and other groups like the Amish, but it seemed a bit tacked on at the end.


Typically I really don't like books about religion or have heavily religious themes, but this was a fascinating read and I might watch the documentary when I get the chance. I also can't compare it to any other books on Scientology, but as a more formal introduction (and not just via Hollywood gossip) it was definitely a good pickup. I purchased it and don't regret it.

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review 2015-04-20 22:08
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright


Description: A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack, the Looming Tower. 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; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard.

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 L. Ron Hubbard--whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion tailor-made to prosper in the spiritually troubled post-World War II era. And his successor, David Miscavige--tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church in the face of ongoing scandals and continual legal assaults.

We learn about Scientology's esoteric cosmology; about the auditing process that determines an inductee's state of being; about the Bridge to Total Freedom, through which members gain eternal life. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how young idealists who joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, whose members often enter as children, signing up with a billion-year contract and working with little pay in poor conditions. We meet men and women "disconnected" from friends and family by the church's policy of shunning critical voices. And we discover, through many firsthand stories, the violence that has long permeated the inner sanctum of the church.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of the constitutional protections achieved in its victory over the IRS. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observations, understanding, and synthesis, and his ability to shape a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that goes far beyond an immediate exposé and uncovers the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.


Watching this youtube interview whilst the sauna heats up, and we shall watch the two hour HBO documentary later.

John Travolta said Monday he hasn't viewed the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, currently shining an accusatory light on his church.
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review 2015-04-15 00:00
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright Scientology is equal parts hilarious and frightening.
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