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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief [Kindle Edition]

Lawrence Wright
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (749 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

National Book Award Finalist


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.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Immersed in this book, the reader is drawn along by tantalizing revelations while simultaneously exhausted, longing for escape from its cloistered world—mirroring the accounts of many former Scientologists on the record, here. In efficient, unemotional prose, Wright begins with the biography of founder L. Ron Hubbard: his days as a prodigiously prolific writer of pulp fiction, his odd military career, the publication of his breakthrough self-help book Dianetics (1950), and the influence, riches, and controversy that have followed since he founded the Church of Scientology in 1954. For those aware of Scientology through its celebrity adherents (Tom Cruise and John Travolta are the best known) rather than its works, the sheer scope of the church’s influence and activities will prove jaw-dropping. Wright paints a picture of organizational chaos and a leader, David Miscavige, who rules by violence and intimidation; of file-gathering paranoia and vengefulness toward apostates and critics; of victories over perceived enemies, including the U.S. government, won through persuasion, ruthless litigation, and dirty tricks. Even more shocking may be the portrayal of the Sea Org, a cadre of true believers whose members sign contracts for a billion years of service, and toil in conditions of indentured servitude, punished mercilessly for inadvertent psychic offenses. Their treatment is a far cry from the coddling afforded to the much-courted celebrities. (Wright does point out that, for whatever reason, most Sea Org members remain in service voluntarily.) Page after page of damaging testimony, often from formerly high-ranking officers, is footnoted with blanket denials from the church and other parties (e.g., “The church categorically denies all charges of Miscavige’s abuse” and “Cruise, through his attorney, denies that he ever retreated from his commitment to Scientology”). Readers will have to decide whether to believe the Pulitzer-winning author’s carefully sourced reporting, or the church’s rebuttals. But, quoting Paul Haggis, the Academy Award–winning film director and former Scientologist whom Wright first profiled in the New Yorker: “if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil rights violations.” Going Clear offers a fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publisher’s announced first printing of 150,000 seems right on the money. Wright will be promoting the book on a seven-city tour, but its reputation precedes him. --Keir Graff

Review

“An utterly necessary story. . . . A feat of reporting.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology . . . a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction." —The Washington Post

“A hotly compelling read. It’s a minutiae-packed book full of wild stories.” —The New York Times

“Courageous. . . . Devastating . . . will come as news even to hardened Scientology buffs who follow the Church’s every twist and turn.” —The Daily Beast

“Essential reading. . . . Lawrence Wright bend[s] over backward to be fair to Scientology. . . . This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Not to be read home alone on a stormy night: Going Clear, Lawrence Wright's scary book about Scientology and its influence. . . . It’s a true horror story, the most comprehensive among a number of books published on the subject in the past few years, many of them personal accounts by people who have managed to escape or were evicted from the clutches of a group they came to feel was destroying them. . . . Wright’s book is a tribute to fact-checkers as well as to his personal courage.” —The New York Review of Books

“Insightful, gripping, and ultimately tragic.” —The Boston Globe

“A fearless, compelling, exhaustive work of muckraking journalism and a masterpiece of storytelling. . . . A ripping yarn about ego, money, abuse, faith, and the corrupting nature of power when wielded by the wrong people. It’s as lurid, pulpy, and preposterous-seeming as anything Hubbard or Haggis ever wrote, but it’s much better, because it has the benefit of being true.” —The A.V. Club

“Invaluable. . . . Completely and conclusively damning.” —Salon

“Who’d have thought a history of religion would offer so many guilty pleasures? Lawrence Wright’s enthralling account of Scientology’s rise brims with celebrity scandal. To anyone who gets a sugar rush from Hollywood gossip, the chapters on Tom Cruise and John Travolta will feel like eating a case of Ding Dongs.” —Los Angeles Times

“Admirably judicious and thoroughly researched. . . . Being Clear is an inducement to darkness and disarray. You may laugh at it at first, but get ready to weep.” —The Guardian (London)

“Not only a titillating exposé on the reported ‘you’re kidding me’ aspects of the religion, but a powerful examination of belief itself.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A fascinating read, and a chilling one. . . . The power in Wright’s book lies as much in his meticulous investigative reporting as in his evenhanded approach.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Absorbing and important. . . . Scrupulous parsing is vintage Wright; his footnotes are as vital as those of any nonfiction writer alive.” —The Plain Dealer

“Mr. Wright’s reportorial techniques seem impeccable. . . . Lawrence Wright shines a light on a world that prefers to keep its players off stage, and the public in the dark.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A powerful piece of reportage. . . . Detailed, intense and at times shocking.” —The Miami Herald

“Wholly engrossing stuff.” —The Austin Chronicle

“Wright’s brave reporting offers an essential reality test. . . . Poses larger questions about the nature of belief.” —Publishers Weekly

“Devastating. . . . Wholly compelling. . . . Each page delivers startling facts that need no elaboration.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Jaw-dropping. . . . A fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways.”—Booklist

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
502 of 520 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Imagine if you were reading a novel that included a character who wrote sci-fi novels, was obsessed with wealth and status symbols, was paranoid about the government, treated others badly, and yet started a religion as a business venture that attracted thousands of devoted followers. You'd probably say, "yeah, right; a nice allegory for an aspect of the American psyche, but I don't think so." Although, if you were familiar with Scientology, you might not be so surprised.

Many aren't familiar with Scientology, in part because the Scientologists have been relentless and devoted to stamping out dissent and negative portrayals of their religion (previous books on L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder ended up with the publisher abandoning the project due to law suits and the British publisher of this book, dropped it for fear of libel law suits [which are easier to win in the UK]). New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright, who is known as one of our great investigative journalists, has prepared himself by doing an incredible amount of due diligence and fact checking (apparently the fact checkers at the New Yorker, which first published an article on Scientology by Wright, made herculean efforts to make sure they got the facts right).

Scientology does not come off well in Going Clear. Wright portrays Scientology as in large part an expression of L. Ron Hubbard's whimsy: "Even as Hubbard was inventing the doctrine, each of his decisions and actions would become enshrined in Scientology lore as something to be emulated -- his cigarette smoking, for instance, which is still a feature of the church's culture at the upper levels, as are his 1950s habits of speech, his casual misogyny, his aversion to perfume and scented deodorants, and his love of cars and motorcycles and Rolex watches.
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270 of 284 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Summary - January 18, 2013
Format:Hardcover
I've read another summary of Scientology - Wright's is far superior, and I especially like his detailing of the church's beliefs. He traces Scientology from its origin in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, its struggle to become accepted as a legitimate (and tax-exempt) religion, efforts to infiltrate governments (placed up to 5,000 Scientologists as spies in government agencies around the world, charging them with finding officials files on the church to help generate intimidating lawsuits,' vindictive treatment of critics (favorite weapon - lawsuits intended to bury the defendant in legal costs) and many who leave its ranks (often incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years and further punished if they tried to escape), and its impressive wealth. The objective, per Wright, of Scientologists, is to climb up the Bridge to Total Freedom's innumerable steps and then achieve eternal life. The organization's major goal is recruiting new members, increasingly achieved via exploiting celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta - he credits Scientology with putting his career into high-gear), and enlisting young members into its Sea Organization clergy - often as young 10 - 12 year-old children signing up for billion-year contracts and work under poor conditions for little/no payment (eg. 90-hour weeks for $50/week, with one day off for schooling) and pressured to undergo abortions if they became pregnant. (A billion years is but a temporary job in Scientology - they contend the world is already four quadrillion years old, and attaining immortality should certainly extend beyond one billion more years.)

Scientology informally claims to have 8 million members (based on the number who have contributed members) and welcomes another 4.4 million new people every year.
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140 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ on Scientology! January 22, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wow, this book is amazing. Both this and Reitman's Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion are required reads for those interested in Scientology. The Scientology website does not tell you the whole story. That is a proven, documented, fact. I also say this as a former Scientologist that left a few months ago. This book not only follows the story of a prominent Scientologist that left after a long 34 years as a dedicated Scientologist, but also provides great insight into the founder of the organization, as well as the host of controversy that has followed Scientology since its founding.

If you're considering joining Scientology, I encourage you to not only read what they say about themselves on their website, but also read the neutral and critical perspectives of Scientology as well, including this book. This organization is not a joke. I quietly left in November, and to this day, I still receive daily phone calls, texts, emails, letters, etc. They wanted me to forget about my education and work for Scientology, since they view their religion as the most important thing in the whole world, of all time. I was told by one staff member that studying for a graduate entrance exam was not as important as studying Scientology. I was also pressured to buy books and lectures, even when I said that I didn't have enough money. I was pressured to join staff at "the org", even after repeatedly stating that I had no time with school and work, and even after explicitly stating that I didn't want to. If you value your time, your education, and most importantly your money, do not join Scientology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars B-A-N-A-N-A-S
This book was quite the trip. I listened to the audiobook version of it and at times I had to take a break because there was simply too much crazy for me to handle. Read more
Published 10 hours ago by aklouie
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientology: what happens when you lose your mind
Frightening revelation into a frightening cult that brainwashes its lowest caste members into giving up everything, including their lives, to support the top tier. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Kresse A. Armour
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting!
Great look into the world of LRH and he Church of Scientology. Fast read on a fascinating topic. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Published 3 days ago by Mary A Furey
4.0 out of 5 stars More than I wanted to know!
Lawrence Wright is a brilliant writer. I didn't enjoy the book, because the more I read the more uncomfortable I became with the subject matter. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Elizabeth Tierney
4.0 out of 5 stars Damning Account of Scientology but a Jumbled Timeline.
It was a major struggle to get through this book because the author went thematically and not chronologically through the material. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Open-minded, well-documented and intensely readable, this is an excellent description and history of Scientology. Read more
Published 7 days ago by John R. Mathiason
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
Very interesting details on a popular topic! Who knew!? Tells a well researched background on a very strange newer religion
Published 8 days ago by T. Hegge
5.0 out of 5 stars really great, in-depth, and entrancing research work
Extremely engaging, well-written treatment of a strange and incomprehensible history. I really enjoyed this book on a lot of different levels.
Published 8 days ago by Daniel Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Great expose on Scientology
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in American history and religion and theology. Similar to "Under the Banner of Heaver" which chronicled the Mormon... Read more
Published 8 days ago by M Jane Moline
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read!
Most comprehensive and thoroughly researched work I have read to date about this church. Recommended for anyone who has ever wondered what they are really all about.
Published 8 days ago by Karen J. Hughes
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#93 in Books > History

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