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Editorial Reviews

Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology seeks to provide the first unbiased and holistic overview of the divisive faith that is Scientology. Reitman focuses on five key elements of the Scientology story: a history of the religion's rise, as well as the rise of its creator, L. Ron Hubbard; a detailed account of the vicious internal coup by current leader, David Miscavige; the sad and shocking story of the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson; an outline of the controversial "celebrity strategy"; and multiple narratives detailing the current mass exodus from a corrupt and abusive church.
Narrator Stephen Hoye does an excellent job with the book, which presents many unique challenges. He successfully tackles a wide range of subject matter from Hubbard's sterile, futurist terminology to some of the more personal, emotionally gripping stories. Hoye serves as a calm voice of reason, guiding us through a potentially confusing world of Orgs, Tech, and more acroynms than a high-level business meeting.
The picture that emerges is a multifaceted one. Outsiders with cursory knowledge of the faith generally associate it with a crackpot Sci-Fi writer looking to make a buck, brainwashing techniques, salacious scandals, never-ending lawsuits, and a creation myth featuring aliens, volcanoes, and movie theaters. While Reitman doesn't exactly dispel these notions completely, she does provide rich historical background and a true look inside this mysterious faith. The truth about the religion, after all, is much more complex than what's presented on the surface.
The promises of Scientology range from the enriching (freedom from mental and emotion anguish) to the humanitarian (providing aid to developing countries and ways out of drug addiction) to the transcendent (immortal life, free of an earthy body). While people are drawn to the faith for all kinds of reasons, Reitman shows us that most Scientologists are just normal people trying to do good in the world and better themselves. Unfortunately, some of these people have been swept up in a devastating new movement within the upper ranks of the church, which has become increasingly obsessed with greed, domination, and power.
Perhaps the most artful facet of this book is that, in true journalistic style, Reitman does her best to simply present the facts and leave the conclusions to the listener. After all, like Hubbard used to say, "What's true is what is true for you." —Gina Pensiero
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Publisher's Summary

Scientology, created in 1954 by a prolific sci-fi writer named L. Ron Hubbard, claims to be the world's fastest-growing religion, with millions of members around the world and huge financial holdings. Its celebrity believers keep its profile high, and its teams of "volunteer ministers" offer aid at disaster sites such as Haiti and the World Trade Center. But Scientology is also a notably closed faith, harassing journalists and others through litigation and intimidation, even infiltrating the highest levels of government to further its goals. Its attacks on psychiatry and its requirement that believers pay as much as tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for salvation have drawn scrutiny and skepticism. And ex-members use the Internet to share stories of harassment and abuse.
Now Janet Reitman offers the first full journalistic history of the Church of Scientology, in an even-handed account that at last establishes the astonishing truth about the controversial religion. She traces Scientology's development from the birth of Dianetics to today, following its metamorphosis from a pseudoscientific self-help group to a worldwide spiritual corporation with profound control over its followers and even ex-followers.
Based on five years of research, unprecedented access to church officials, confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is the defining book about a little-known world.
©2011 Janet Reitman (P)2011 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A detailed and readable examination of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church, and his successor, David Miscavige." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Matt on 08-09-11

My cup of tea.

I am not an ex-Scientologist, I am not a member of any anti-Scientologist organization, and I am not affiliated in anyway with Scientology. I feel I must preface that. :) As one who is interested in many religions, cults and worship practices; this was definitely my cup of tea. The book was well written and the narration was FANTASTIC. Out of pure curiosity, I have visited many ex Scientology websites, watched the YouTube videos from Anonymous and ex members, I have been to the websites about Lisa McPherson and I have read a lot of Hubbard's teachings and information. There is a lot of in-depth information about Lisa McPherson in this book and I must say it was fascinating and of course, sad. The book flows nicely between the past and present and weaves in stories of ex members seamlessly. I was particularly interested Hubbard's relationship with John Whiteside Parsons. Parsons' relationship to the occult and Aleister Crowley was fascinating and did lead me to do some fun research. There are many things that disturbed me about this book, and it was not the writing or the author, it was the alleged forced abortions, abuse of church members, young children being shipped off to live, work obey and dress a tyrannical leader and also, this book does passively imply that Charles Manson may have used Hubbard's techniques in controlling his flock or "family" to commit the infamous Sharon Tate murders. This book delves deep into the realm of Scientology we "outsiders" do not experience and gives first hand knowledge of the inside from ex members, which I very much appreciated. I did not feel the author had contempt or ill will toward David Miscavige, or Scientology in general, but wanted to get to the bottom of the rumors, bad press and basically tell the story of what Scientology is and why Scientology is "a big deal." If you are interested in Scientology, get this book. I definitely wanted to hear more.

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90 of 94 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David on 04-18-14

Tom Cruise, L. Ron Hubbard, and Xenu

If you're like most people in the 21st century, the image you have of Scientology is probably Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch, while promoting War of the Worlds in 2005 on Oprah. His manic performance while waxing ecstatic over his love for Katie Holmes (wife #3) turned him into a punchline, and this was in the middle of his renewed advocacy for Scientology, a "religion" that is probably most famous for attracting so many Hollywood celebrities, most notably Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but the list is actually quite large.

Of course, this being the 21st century, everyone has access to the Internet and so if you've ever been the least bit interested in Scientology, you have probably also heard about Xenu and "Body Thetans" and all the other stuff Scientologists aren't supposed to learn about until they reach "OT3."

Tom Cruise himself, according to Janet Reitman's detailed history of the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, said "What is this sci-fi bull****?" when the secrets of Galactic Overlord Xenu were finally revealed to him. And yet he went on to become Scientology's most public and effective advocate, and according to Inside Scientology, a one-man cash cow for the church, which has a habit of dramatically overstating its membership numbers.

L. Ron Hubbard himself, a science fiction author who knew all the big names back in the early days of pulp sci-fi, was a huckster, a con-man, and a relent self-promoting machine. You may consider his ethics and the made-up religion he created to be dodgy at best, but you cannot help but admire how he turned every adversity and setback into a win for himself. By the time he died, he was a Christ-like figure to his followers, who made him and his church incredibly rich.

Inside Scientology is not a sensationalistic hit-piece on Scientology. Reitman tries to be as even-handed as possible, but just reporting the plain facts about Scientology, without the church's PR spin or outright falsification, inevitably casts it in a negative light. There are people, even who have left the church, who to this day insist that the "tech" works and that Scientology helped them. Yet the stories of abuse, of milking members for every dime of their savings and then putting them to work in what amounts to voluntary indentured servitude when their money runs out, of distortions and deceptions, of massive, widespread campaigns of organized harassment and gaslighting and ruinous litigation for the sake of destroying the church's enemies, make one wonder how anyone could see the Church of Scientology in a clear light and not see it for what it is? And for that matter, how does anyone in the 21st century with an Internet connection actually join this "religion" (yes, I'm going to insist on putting that in scare quotes), after reading about Xenu?

Well, in short, according to Reitman, Scientology has indeed taken a big hit since the advent of the Internet and the ability of anyone to go on online and read all about their more esoteric/bizarre doctrines and their history. Most new Scientologists today are kids who were raised in the church, and the church does its best to keep its members in a bubble, told to avoid reading critical books or articles or websites and avoid "suppressive personalities" (i.e., people hostile to Scientology). Yet evidently, some are still drawn into it, and the church's "celebrity strategy," which famously netted Tom Cruise, is still keeping their Hollywood org jumping.

Reitman's history goes all the way back to L. Ron Hubbard's early days, and the evolution of "Dianetics" into a full-blown religion. The tactics of the church, which were belligerent and ruthless even in the early days, and led to them essentially bullying the IRS into granting them tax-exempt status in 1993. Reitman is especially critical of Scientology's current leader, David Miscavage, who took over the reins of the church from LRH and is, from Reitman's account, exactly the sort of insecure, micromanaging, thin-skinned egomaniac you never want to see in power.

This is all fascinating stuff, and rather heart-breaking when you see how much damage the "religion" has caused over its relatively brief history. And yet, people still embrace it, even some of its outcasts. Are they really so different from Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or Muslims? All religions have pretty lurid histories and it's easy to portray any of them as terrible, cult-like conspiracies.

I think after reading this book you will see plenty of differences that mark Scientology as... something else. Still, this book is written as a piece of journalism, not a critique, and the church itself was surprisingly cooperative with the author. So if you are interested in that wacky Hollywood religion with its arcane jargon, and don't just want to read a screed by an ex-Scientologist about how awful Scientology is, Inside Scientology is a very good place to start.

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24 of 25 people found this review helpful

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