Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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

It’s official. I now know more about Scientology than I need to. Last year I read and reviewed Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. So when Lawrence Wright (pictured), author of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11, came out with another Scientology expose, I had doubts that Wright's version could shed much more light on the topic, and I was right - sort of.

It didn’t, in that it was much like Reitman’s book. It covered the wacko L. Ron Hubbard and the very secretive and very strange shenanigans of this infamous cult that believes in some stuff that makes you want to squint your eyes and say to no one in particular, “What is wrong with those people?” It also didn’t add much new info about how Scientology courts celebrities (with a good bit of success I might add). And in my opinion, Wright’s version wasn’t as well written. For what it’s worth, however, what it lacked in delivery, it made up for in detail – gobs of detail.

What kept me reading in spite of the above was Wright’s addition of more information about Hubbard’s personal life - his suspected faked war service, his marriage, his back-to-back con-jobs that kept him in tailored suits and Cuban cigars and his disciples penniless and subservient. There was also much more detail about his marriages and children, all of which were surprisingly normal as long as wife-y didn’t challenge Hubbard in any way, which they all eventually did, leading to a string of divorces.

 There was also much more focus on certain high-up individuals who, after they had spent many years in Scientology, deserted and were ready to spill their guts to the author, which made for some interesting tales of physical and psychological abuse, as well as other illegal activities. Of course, the so-called “church” of Scientology disputes everything and backs it up with an army of lawyers.

I agree with one of the reviews I saw that said the stories are fascinating, but no one, not Wright nor Reitman nor anyone else, seems to be able to explain how the organization went from a “crackpot idea” to a super-wealthy full-fledged global network. Of course, it’s about squeezing every recruit for money, and as the saying goes, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” But the internal financial machine remains a mystery. I also agree with the same reviewer that Going Clear is more like four rather disjointed books; one about the personal life of Hubbard; one about actress Anne Archer’s son - film director and screenwriter, Paul Haggis (Crash and Million Dollar Baby); one about Tom Cruise’s buddy, the current head of the “church,” David Miscavige; and one about the recruitment and retention of celebrities.

Read it? Sure, if you are fascinated in the power of cults/religion, and you haven’t already OD’d on Scientology exposés!


  1. SueAnn,
    Aloha from The Midlife Gals! We both read Going Clear and then Beyond Belief by David Miscavige's niece, and we are completely obsessed with this BIZARRE cult! We just wish that they would start their own reality show, because then maybe we could tear ourselves away from Polygamists USA in order to watch

    KK and Sal

  2. Hi Very Smart Midlife Gals - Thanks for the comment! Agree - that would make a fab reality show! Crazy!!!