Scientology is one of the wealthiest and most powerful new religions to emerge in the past century. To its detractors, L. Ron Hubbard's space-age mysticism is a moneymaking scam and sinister brainwashing cult. But to its adherents, it is humanity's brightest hope. Few religious movements have been subject to public scrutiny like Scientology, yet much of what is written about the church is sensationalist and inaccurate.
Here for the first time is the story of Scientology's protracted and turbulent journey to recognition as a religion in the postwar American landscape. Hugh Urban tells the real story of Scientology from its cold-war-era beginnings in the 1950s to its prominence today as the religion of Hollywood's celebrity elite. Urban paints a vivid portrait of Hubbard, the enigmatic founder who once commanded his own private fleet and an intelligence apparatus rivaling that of the U.S. government. One FBI agent described him as "a mental case", but to his followers he is the man who "solved the riddle of the human mind". Urban details Scientology's decades-long war with the IRS, which ended with the church winning tax-exempt status as a religion; the rancorous cult wars of the 1970s and 1980s; as well as the latest challenges confronting Scientology, from attacks by the Internet group Anonymous to the church's efforts to suppress the online dissemination of its esoteric teachings.
This book demonstrates how Scientology has reflected the broader anxieties and obsessions of postwar America, and raises profound questions about how religion is defined and who gets to define it.
"The most scholarly treatment of the organization to date." (Scientific American)
"A fascinating and oftentimes mind-bending account of how penny-a-word sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard doggedly pursued the 'religion angle' in his quest to create the worldwide Church of Scientology. Urban makes it clear from the outset that he could have written a lot more about Scientology than he has here--perhaps even a few volumes more. Settling on a narrower scope, however, hasn't precluded the author from presenting a thoroughly absorbing chronicle of Scientology's 60-year history in America.... An intriguing introduction into the labyrinthine world of Scientology and its meaning in American society." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Urban addresses his subject as a historian of religion and objectively traces the complex history of a movement that is now recognized as a religion in the U.S.... With his fair, scholarly approach, Urban has written what is probably the best history available of this terribly tangled story." (Choice)
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Excellent Summary of Scientology
Perhaps. But there is so much out there on the subject, that I might want to listen to some other things first.
"Inside Scientology" - Janet Reitman. They both seem to be a basic history of the "religion".
As usual, the cringe-worthiness of Scientology is unparalleled. But in general, I ways feel sad for the rank-and-file mindless robots that do all the work (and yet sometimes still end up tortured for thinking on their own), and disgust for the leadership that reap all the rewards (re: money).
Excellent book on Scientology. It doesn't belabor Hubbard's early years like some of the other texts out there, but gives you just enough background to understand the "church" today. It's very comprehensive. This book, as any good research book should be, is told in a matter-of-fact way.
Some good sections but largely tedious.