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Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion Hardcover – July 5, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: Whatever your opinion of Scientology, the truth is more extreme. Inside Scientology is journalist Janet Reitman's incredible book-length follow-up to the Rolling Stone cover story of the same name, a 2007 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Founded by wayward science-fiction writer and historical revisionist par excellence L. Ron Hubbard, "America's Most Secretive Religion" is perhaps best known for high-profile adherents like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but its tenets, processes, and internal organization form a story as surprising and captivating as that of any investigative work released this year. Reitman's extensive research--including hundreds of interviews with devotees and defectors alike--culminates in an expansive, page-turning survey of the origins, development, crises, beliefs, and scandals of this fascinating incorporated religion, all with a fair-minded approach that favors diligent curiosity over judgment at every turn. "It has been my goal to write the first objective modern history of the Church of Scientology," Reitman writes in the book's introduction, and to this end, Inside Scientology succeeds in spades. This book will remain the definitive study of the subject for a long time to come. --Jason Kirk
"The most complete picture of Scientology so far." –Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review"Reitman's book delivers all it promises, and it promises a lot… [Reitman] has put together the most masterfully written, narratively rewarding, and thorough yarn about L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, and Scientology and its strange past, present, and possible future….In Inside Scientology, we have a thorough, brave journalist backed by a major publisher, and soon what no doubt will be a major publicity push: Reitman's book should soon become Scientology's biggest headache in years." - Village Voice"This book is fearless" - Wall Street Journal"[A] meaty, engaging new book" -Slate.com"[A] meticulously researched history and revealing exposé, a frightening portrait of a religion that many find not just controversial, but dangerous…Throughout the book, the author displays consummate journalistic skills. Her accumulation of evidence is particularly impressive and gives rise to one of the more memorable works of investigative nonfiction in recent years."- Boston Globe
"A well-researched and compelling read" - Los Angeles Times"[A] richly narrative history of the organization… The book is convincing and compelling. It will be interesting to see how the Scientology leadership responds." - St Louis Post Dispatch"So most journalistic accounts of Scientology fall into two categories: ax-grinding expose or fawning apologism. Fortunately Janet Reitman finds a third way in her authoritative, absorbing "Inside Scientology": nuanced reporting that lets the facts speak for themselves..."Inside Scientology" will remain a thoughtful, fair-minded record of its tumultuous first generation." - San Francisco Chronicle"Inside Scientology is a masterful piece of reporting....a compelling introduction to "America’s most secretive religion," as the subtitle has it. Even for those who have no interest in parsing when cults become religions or why faith upends fact, Reitman tells a spellbinding story of a larger-than-life personality whose quirks, ticks and charisma shaped America’s newest homegrown religious movement." - Washington Post"INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY is notable for its depth and sweep. Reitman's research pays off not only in rich portrayals of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and current leader David Miscavige, but in intimate portraits of people who have been swept up along the way….Reitman's analysis of Scientology's ability to survive scandal and mockery is compelling and persuasive." - Seattle Times"The inside scoop on Scientology, the steeped-in-secrecy religion of L. Ron Hubbard." - Minneapolis Star Tribune"Inside Scientology leaves no scandal unturned in the life of L. Ron Hubbard, underlings, celebrities and cult "slaves" in this story of America's most secretive religion....It is a riveting read not only for its thorough research, and winning style, but because [Reitman] has left no greed undescribed in the 396 page-turner." - Seattle Post Intelligencer"Inside Scientology" by Janet Reitman is an amazing book...a masterful telling of the church’s history and the division among its members" - Asbury Park Press"Inside Scientology is an engrossing, groundbreaking work that brings a welcome sense of fair-mindedness to a subject that is, for many journalists and scholars, too hot to touch. Reitman has accomplished the miracle of adding light without heat."- Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11"Inside Scientology goes beyond the celebrities and the scandals -- though they're here in all their absurdity and horror, too -- to find in Scientology a more profound story about "technology" as an article of faith and faith as a vessel for science, or, at least, science fiction. With courage, empathy, and clarity -- if that word can be reclaimed from L. Ron Hubbard -- Janet Reitman has with this definitive investigation laid bare the genesis and possibly the endgame of America's strangest religion".--Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of The Family and C Street
"Thoroughly engrossing page-turner on the shape-shifting Church of Scientology...A bizarre and complicated history told with masterful control." -Kirkus Reviews starred
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It's difficult to say with certainty how biased it is. Clearly the Church denies that it was well-researched, but if you read the book, you're not really surprised by their reaction. Janet is not an ex-Scientologist, so the only kind of bias I can conceive of would be to have a book that highlights the controversial aspects of the Church's history for dramatic effect. But, to be fair, she mentioned her fair share of neutral factoids. I'm having trouble remembering if she ever said anything explicitly positive about the Church, except perhaps to say that a lot of people felt that they benefitted from auditing.
This latter point was something that was significant for me in my views of Scientology. I used to say, "If someone asks me whether or not I believe in Scientology, I'd say that I don't believe that Scientologists believe in Scientology" (mostly keeping the whole Xenu story in mind while saying this). Now I can say confidently that people do believe in Scientology, or at least aspects of it, and they have reaped benefits from these parts that they adhere to.
Overall, it was fascinating to read about Scientology, albeit overall alarming. You will not come away from reading this book without thinking that they are a dangerous cult (certainly not as dangerous as IS, say, but dangerous nonetheless).
I gave it four stars instead of five partially because: 1) it got somewhat dull in perhaps the first third of the book and I put it down for awhile. I think maybe I got tired of reading about L. Ron Hubbard, but it picked up for me at the Lisa McPherson case and stayed interesting throughout the rest of the book. Not that it's not interesting at ALL early on (e.g., you become more convinced that L Ron's Science Fiction writing had a hand in crafting some of the doctrines of Scientology); 2) much of Scientology involves terms and acronyms that are unique to the religion, and there were many times throughout the book where I forgot what an acronym stood for, as it seemed like they were defined 1 or more chapters earlier. It would have been more helpful if Janet redefined them more often or provided a glossary at the back of the book. An example is the fact that the headquarters for Scientology is called both Gold and Int, which I had forgotten and was wondering what the difference between the two was; 3) the same problem occurred with people in the book. I'll never forget L. Ron, David Miscavige, Lisa McPherson (or celebrities like Tom Cruise), but many of the other individuals that were mentioned throughout the book were not important enough or mentioned often enough to store in long term memory. A glossary would have helped here too.
Besides these relatively minor gripes, if you're interested in learning about Scientology from an outside perspective, I'm sure you can't do much better than this book!
It is possible that an underground exists where information contained in these enlightening books is being disseminated to those who have been conned into this slavish pyramid scheme. Read this and discuss the topic with your friends as you never know who will be lured in by the promise of saving the universe while exhausting their savings.