305 of 324 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion is objective, nonbiased and well written. It will raise the blood pressure of the management of Scientology, as well as the hairs on the arms of those unfamiliar with what goes on inside.
I heartedly whipped through this informative book and I highly recommend for general readers,as well as current and former members.
The most important thing I came away with after reading it was that this well researched and written book is an must read for anyone wanting to know why Scientology is so controversial.
The subject and history of Scientology and it's leaders current and past, is such that it would fill volumes. So, I think Janet Reitman accomplished, in good part, what she set out to do with this book:
"It has been my goal to write the first objective modern history of the Church of Scientology," Reitman proclaims in her introduction. "It is the goal of Inside Scientology to translate [L. Ron Hubbard's arcane] language and separate myth from fact."
What to include must have been a real dilemma. As a former member, I just wish there had been more. But for the outsider wanting to know the inside story of the secretive religion called Scientology, they will come away very informed and quite surprised. It does not provide all that there is to know but she provides the essential information and gives the reader enough so that they will have an historical understanding. She compliments earlier works and provides such that one will want to read up on previous works if they have not read them already.
She really did her homework. Hence the large Notes Section and 'Selected Bibliography at the end of the book. Additionally, the internet played a large part in the history of Scientology and she provides information on where to find information, as well.
Reitman does a very good job on the things she covers and for those not intimately aware of the cult as I am, the book provides riviting accounts of members recollections aided by well researched information on the organization, it's policies, procedures and culture. She does this in the most unbiased manner and backs up her work with meticulous researched references.
I was glad to see that she included interviews and information which I either did not expect to be in it, or never knew about before. I was also dismayed that certain events and names were not mentioned but, as I said, it would take volumns. She did her best to fit in what she could without overwhelming the reader. Shje explains scientologese and did it in a very easy to digest style. The research is excellent, as well. The book flows and is an enjoyable read. All that says a lot about this book and the author.
298 of 325 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2011
The three chapters about Lisa McPherson in this book pretty much sum up what is wrong with scientology.
The story of Lisa will tear your heart out. But it will also show you an example, if an extreme one, of an organization based on lies, taking advantage of others and itself being highly dangerous.
Lisa died receiving what organized scientology called "The Introspection Rundown".
In the book Janet Reitman tells of scientology's founder L Ron Hubbard announcing this rundown as a cure for the last unsolvable mental condition "the psychotic break". As quoted from Hubbard in Janet's book: "'I have made a technical breakthrough which possibly ranks with the major discoveries of the Twentieth Century,' he proclaimed in a bulletin dated November 24, 1973. 'THIS MEANS THE LAST REASON TO HAVE PSYCHIATRY AROUND IS GONE'."
Who is Hubbard to make such a "breakthrough"? The point is not whether the introspection rundown should have been two days or seventeen days as is argued by true believers in Hubbard's "technology". The point is this "tech" was written by a man with zero credentials in the field of mental health, who was an academic fraud, who abused people on a wholesale basis and who ripped off many millions from the proceeds of scientology while countless staff were cash starved and countless public were financially ruined.
In every way organized scientology destroyed a beautiful, young woman and took advantage of her for her money. It was completely incompetent without a technology to truly help others. And then it covers up what in my opinion is serious crime knowingly and willingly so that justice even to this day will never be done. It hides evidence and people from investigating authorities and then attacks the investigators brutally and continually.
This organization is built on a foundation of lies. It lies about its founder and its so-called "tech". There are countless examples of this in this book.
To exist it constantly must lie about what it is as one person and family after another is devoured for worldly gain.
And now organized scientology is using its myriad of "secular", benign-sounding front groups to penetrate our schools, businesses, mental health and other sectors of society with their "tech", pretending it is not 100% controlled by organized scientology.
This book is a vital piece of well written information that should be read by millions in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.
263 of 289 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2011
I bought this book despite knowing many details over the span of Scientology history and because of it. Here was an author who reportedly had done intense research, but noone has been able to capture with any depth the full panomara in one full swoop. How could anyone?
Janet Reitman has accomplished this exhausting and trying feat not reading like a dry history book, but a drama/scifi/mystery. I could not put it down until finished. There were many details I didn't know. More important to me personally was even after all this time I was able to piece together various plans and schemes that never made sense until Janet laid it all out.
I hope your steadfast labor, Ms Reitman, finds the tremendous success and widespread distribution it deserves. I firmly believe this will be The Book on the Real Scientology that will be referenced more than any other. I just finished it and am a bit awestruck. I certainly hope politicians, lobbyists, social groups, humanitarian groups and others will read this book and educate themselves fully, as well as parents, and teens, young adults.
The one group that needs to read it the most are Scientologists. In reality, they will be the last. Sincere thanks. Oh, there are juicy details in each chapter that make it a Must Read for almost anyone. When it comes to Scientology bizarre elements, you just can't make this stuff up. Hope to see you interviwed by Steven Colbert in the very near future!
More thoughts after a second read:
It is impossible for any one book to cover All of sci history from All angles. It would take a series, a long one.
There's a very important factor that sometimes gets missed so I'll repeat it. Janet Reitman discusses her sources and research in great depth. She made it clear that she didn't include anything that didn't have many backups of a story or incident.
There's also that tired, old elephant in the room. Sci's legal soldiers always at the ready, and Janet had a well founded, major publishing team behind her with their own legal eyes. Imagine how many keystrokes were deleted to make this book possible at all. It simply would not have gotten published if it had everything many of us would like to see inside.
But then there's the three, three chapters re: Lisa McPherson. And so much more. It's done in chronological order, and contains an enormous amount of background and major moments of the masterminds behind the battlefronts. Additionally I favor this book because there are so many other resources referenced within that any paricular area or point or person someone wants to find out more, there's no spending hours of googling necessary. It's provided and it makes it easy.
Sci's Bridge publications has their "What is Scientology" three-inch (?) tome and how much Truth is inside that piece of work? If someone was curious about sci, would you hand them that garbage? Janet Reitman's "Inside Scientology" holds more truth than all the thousands of sci's "library".
It should come in very handy for press questions or needs for background on a story, for families concerned about a loved one thinking about joining, and for those who know something about it, but want to know more. And like I said, there is a long list of references and links for more info throughout.
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
I rarely read books of over 400 pages in a single sitting, but this investigative exposé of the Church of Scientology had me riveted to my chair from the first page to the last. The narrative was compelling throughout, as was the accretion of completely believable specifics and heartbreaking personal stories. This is non-fiction that doesn't come across as dry or academic; it reads more like a complex mystery thriller. And it's a bracing antidote to the exaggerations and outright lies that the organization publishes about its founder, tenets of faith, effectiveness, and overt and covert conduct.
The story begins with the 1911 birth of L. Ron Hubbard, an ambitious, charismatic oddball who became an inveterate conman. We get a tour of his brief naval career, his evolution into a pulp sci-fi novelist, and his creation in 1950 of "Dianetics," a combination of do-it-yourself psychoanalysis and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that was rechristened "Scientology" when it became a religion. From the establishment of Hubbard's empire, development of religious "technology," and war on psychiatry to his life at sea as a self-appointed "commodore," disappearance from public life, and 1986 death as a paranoid recluse, we learn the details from insiders, many of whom were cruelly used and abused during their years within the group.
The book explains Hubbard's posthumous apotheosis at the hands of the Machiavellian David Miscavige, who has run Scientology with an iron hand for the past 25 years. Miscavige continues the transformation of the founder's biography into an absurd hagiography, one that is almost as over-the-top as his comical alien mythology (Thetans, Engrams, Xenu, etc). We read about the tragic death of a mentally ill member named Lisa McPherson, the ongoing enslavement of brainwashed believers like Tanya and Stefan Castle, and the sycophantic recruitment of Hollywood stars with deep pockets like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
This pyramid scheme claims to have millions of adherents, yet reliable surveys put the actual membership in the tens of thousands. It approaches prospective converts with offers of a free "stress test" using a crude device called an "E-Meter," but all further services from counselors (called "auditors") carry high fees since they work on commission. This profitable religion is, of course, blessed by the US government with tax-exempt status. Converts enter a psychological pressure cooker in which their every move and word is examined; the higher their position, the more regimented and monitored they are.
Leaving is unthinkable, and anyone expressing a desire to do so is at first intimidated and then punished. Those who succeed in escaping are utterly shunned, and any secrets they may have revealed to the church are used to defame them. As the author points out, the perfection that the organization promises is ultimately a narcissistic one, devoid of compassion and consumed by fear of failure, obsessed with the paradoxical goals of secrecy and self-aggrandizement -- and money, money, money. The untrammeled greed and lavish lifestyles of Scientology's upper echelons and celebrity supporters beggar description.
I'm clearly not a fan of religions or secret societies that rob members of their wills, program their behavior, drain their bank accounts, forbid all criticism, and treat doubters as enemies, but this book is no mere hatchet job. It's a well-written, fair-minded, clear-eyed look at a wealthy, powerful, vindictive group of fanatics; their bizarre doctrines, arcane jargon, manipulative methods, and totalitarian hierarchy; and their gullible followers, who are desperate for certainty and approval. The author's scholarship is supported by five years of extensive research and many pages of exhaustive annotation (and a lot of raw courage, since the "church" regularly harasses and sues its critics). Look no further for the definitive history of and truth about the Cult of Scientology.
98 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2011
First off the book is excellent, it's incredibly hard to strive for objectivity when writing about new and controversial religious movements, but Reitman does a decent job. The book does present an overall negative picture of Scientology, but to her credit she does attempt to offer the Scientologist's position even though the church does not offer much in way of it's defense other than hyperbolic martyrdom. She does Scientology a favor, ending on a positive and upbeat note from some younger intelligent Scientologists who live and operate within mainstream society. This younger generation seems more aware of the serious issues and controversies that surround their faith (their faith in Hubbard could match any evangelical), and the observations and comments they make give the reader a sense of reassurance that Scientology isn't totally made up of zealots, ready to live like slaves.
Reitman paints a very sympathetic picture of L. Ron Hubbard, that is reminiscent of Fawn Brodie's treatment of Joseph Smith, and in a lot of ways, both men are a lot alike. It's interesting to note how both Smith and Hubbard were both intensely bright and intelligent men, but for all intents and purposes, were complete outsiders to the fields they attempted to reform. Joseph was a complete neophyte when it came to Theology and pastoral studies, but he attempted a complete overhaul of the Christian Church by restoring the ancient church here in America. In a similar vein, Hubbard was also a complete neophyte when it came to the burgeoning field of Psychology and Psychiatry, but that didn't stop him from try to sweep both away with his own system. Both men possessed a fierce charisma, that allowed them to not only disarm potential skeptics, but convince people of all walks of life that they were the real deal.
Although Reitman doesn't explicitly state it, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of sexual proclivities on Hubbard's part with his followers. During the later stages of Hubbard's career, he was surrounded by pretty young women who grew up nearly worshiping him, and instead of creating himself a harem, he treated the girls (and some boys) more like his own children. I should also mention that one of the more despicable shared characteristics between Hubbard and Smith is the way in which they treated their legal wives, with Hubbard more or less, abandoning his and letting her take a legal fall.
The most fascinating part for me was when Hubbard's paranoia forced him into hiding, where he was totally secluded, except for just a few elect and trusted followers. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering from David Miscavige is eerily similar to how Stalin isolated Lenin, and wrestled control away from his rivals (poor Trotsky!) and even the way Miscavige purged the upper echelons of Scientology of the old guard is almost a photo copy from Stalin's playbook.
The post-Hubbard age of Scientology is fraught with controversy and rapid expansion. I think the most eye-opening and disturbing aspect is the church's use of legal litigation as a tool to bludgeon their enemies with is more than a little unsettling, given how deep the Church's coffers are.
One downside of the book is it doesn't give an in-depth review of the ins and outs of Scientology's beliefs, Reitman does provide a basic foundation and tries to fill you in on the vocabulary, but I felt it left much to be desired. To make up for it, there is a solid bibliography in the back, which does point a reader in the right direction if they are left unsatisfied in a given area.
All said, I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in comparative religion, and people who like to study new religious movements.
104 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2011
As an ex-scientologist and staff member, I found the book to be to the point and factual. It is obvious that Ms. Reitman did her homework. I congratulate her on having the ethics and courage to write about what few others have been willing to tackle. This is a must read!
The method in which she explains Hubbards history of rejection, work with the occult, desire to make money and then blends it into the current organizations narcissitic management is brilliant.
I found myself first feeling sorry for Hubbard, then thinking what a waste of brilliance, then how bizarre the whole situation is, and finally sadness and empathy for those who have been directly affected.
Again, thank you Ms. Reitman for a great read.
92 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2011
As someone who spent 15 years inside Scientology, I am impressed by detail and accuracy of this book. The author really did her homework. Having witnessed a good number of the events portrayed first hand I found them to be described as they happened in excellent detail.
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2011
I ordered the book and am now reading it. I have finished about a quarter of the book reading it last evening. It has been very insightful to me. Having been in the C of S for forty year I have found out information that was withheld from me during my journey on the "bridge to total freedom." Janet's book is shining the light on many of the hidden things the C of S never wanted you to know. It is a wonderful book.
69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2011
1) The Tanya and Stefan Castle story is a sub subject that tells a lot about how far Scientology has evolved. Firstly people at the top ranks STILL are put in such dire predicaments, that the abrupt AWOL (absent without leave) unauthorized departures/escapes are happening. That they dealt with Stefan like they did, also, something old, and also something new, the payoff offered Stefan. Secondly, it's the smaller cheezes, like Tanya, who are like the cooks, doctors, close personal go-fors of famous upty-ups, who have the juicy info about the uptty-ups, in this case David Miscavige the tyrannical "successor" leader of Scientology, that she escaped, and how she escaped is worth the price of the book. Thanks to those that dreamed up the escape and executed it, because it was an ex member "team" effort the Tanya Castle escape. In the sub subject of staff escapes from Scientology staff confinement situations, Tanya's is the best!
2) Janet does to us ultra expert ex member "critics" and know it alls, the unthinkable, really. Janet rises her book way above any past book, and she gives the LAST WORD to the young smart college educated Scientologist young worman!!! The book's final chapter, final paragraphs to me are the most amazing, uplifting and future hopeful part of the book. No one I am sure will even agree with me, since the expert Scientology watchers don't think Scientology has a chance. Well, I do. And that Janet gives the final word to the young smart Scientologists, is really also, for me, worth the price of the book.
3) Janet's chapters on the Lisa McPherson when I was done, I cried to myself. Lisa McPherson came to life, and her death hurts even more. Janet's talking with the Florida police and prosecutor people, and their input, excellent journalism. I knew a lot of the details, but learned even more, particularly what Florida officials thought about the tragedy. And Lisa McPherson's vibrant life was finally presented, so Lisa I think has been paid the best tribute by a writer yet. Thanks very much for that Janet Reitman!!
4) Mark Fisher's insider details where Mark is quoted and tells insider moments, priceless new info.
Janet I can't thank you enough for taking on "our" recent decades lives in the Scientology movement.
Janet, I hope the youth of Scientology take up the challenge that the young Scientologist you let have the last word, in your book.
And I hope your book goes where PAST books have NOT gone, which is onto the shelves of official Scientologits.
I hope to heck Scientology proper, meaning the official Scientology movement, are allowed to read and own and discuss your book.
I know the independent movement of Scientologists will read your book.
The dividing line of the old official Scientology and the new independent Scientology, is that the new independent Scientology CAN and WILL read your book.
Let's hope official Scientology doesn't close itself up.
Let's hope the young woman you gave the last word in your book to, let's hope she is NOT censored for staying in touch with you Janet!
I sure hope Scientology turns and adopts the more tolerant attitudes demonstrated by the new independent Scientologists, and your book will be a sort of litmus test, by whether official Scientology allows its members to read your book.
Can't thankyou enough Janet!
ex Sea Org (1975-2003)
866-XSEAORG toll free
(will answer any questions by email, re Scientology, I was a former Scientology administrative scriptures staff trainer helper, and compiler of the operative nuggets of Hubbard's staff member duties)
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2011
This is not only the most courageous account of Scientology that I have ever read, but a sparkling piece of non-fiction writing. She tells the most detailed history that exists with a firm grasp of the dramatic nuances -- where did she piece together Tom Cruise's ups and downs with the church? How did she array such internal contacts without the fear of retribution that has hamstrung lesser writers? I read the 400 pages in one sitting, and could not have voluntarily chose otherwise.
A meta-note: I came to Amazon.com expecting that militant Scientologists would have overrun the reviews for this book with robotic denunciations. I cannot tell you how pleased I am that the few negative (and unsurprisingly, cursory and poorly written) reviews have been soundly rejected. Reitman talks about the shrinking influence of Scientology due to the mismatch between their insular, cloistered worldview and the increasingly open and connected nature of the rest of humanity; her thesis is illustrated most strongly right here.