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Book Review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief 353

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes "In its first week, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief was #3 on the New York Times Best Sellers list and will likely be #1 soon. The fact that the book is in print is somewhat miraculous given the voracious appetite Scientology has for litigation. It is the first time that such an expose could have been written and found such wide-scale reading. An interesting analysis of this fact is found in Why the Media Is No Longer Afraid of Scientology by Kim Masters. But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising." Keep reading to be clear about what Ben has to say.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
author Lawrence Wright
pages 448
publisher Knopf
rating 10/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-0307700667
summary Compelling and engrossing book, thoroughly researched and extensively fact checked
Scientology has long called anyone who has written against them as having a vendetta. It calls former adherents heretics with a vendetta. But after such hyperbole, it is illogical and questionable that Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright would risk a distinguished career to write an expose simply based on those with a vendetta. But to cover all bases, including those of litigation, the books nearly 50 pages of notes puts Wright and his publisher in a strongly defensible position in case the church decided to litigate.

Wright is aware of the dangers of writing against the church, as he details the story of Paulette Cooper. Cooper, whose 1971 book The Scandal of Scientology, was sued nearly 20 times by the church and harassed for years due to its contents. The book details that an FBI raid a few years later found a Scientology file about Operation Freakout, which had the purpose of getting Cooper in a mental institution or jail.

The book places Church President David Miscavige is a negative light (over 20 people in the book accuse him of abuse, including being kicked, punched, slapped, choked and more). Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman states that details about Miscavige are false and defamatory.

The church created a web site for what it believes are errors in the book. While Wright is short on drama, the web site hyperbolically states that the book is "so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid". The web site states that British publishers have chosen not to print it "which speaks volumes about their confidence in its factual accuracy". The truth is that British libel laws are so onerous and archaic, that publishers are reticent to publish such a work. While it might not be published in the UK, it is easily available via the Amazon UK web site.

In Going Clear, Wright has created a fair and balanced overview (if such a thing is actually possible) about Scientology. The book has interview material and facts from over 200 current and former members of the Church of Scientology, and takes a historical look of its history, and that of its founder L. Ron Hubbard and successor, current President David Miscavige.

In the introduction, Wright notes that he was drawn to write the book by the questions that many people have about Scientology; such as: what is it that make the religion so alluring? What do its adherents get out of it? Why do popular personalities associate themselves with a faith that is likely to create a kind of public relations martyrdom? He notes that these questions are not unique to Scientology, but that they certainly underscore its story.

As 372 pages covering 3 parts and 11 chapters, Wright is a mesmerizing author that creates a non-fiction spellbinding page-turner. The 4 main characters of the book are Hubbard, Miscavige and actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

In chapter 2, the book details the many discrepancies between the legend of L. Ron Hubbard and fact. While Scientologist's may think that Wright has a vengeance against the group, he writes that it is a fact that Hubbard was genuinely a fascinating man. He writes that Hubbard was an explorer, best-selling author and the founder of a worldwide religious movement. At the same time, Wright's research found that the truth is counter to some of the postulated facts about Hubbard's naval career, his miraculous recovery from wartime injuries and overall naval accomplishments.

As to the manipulation of facts, in the final pages of the book, Wrights notes some of Hubbard's medical records do not corroborate his version of the actual events. Some of the naval medals that Hubbard supposedly won were not created until after Hubbard left active service. The supposed Purple Heart medal for being wounded while serving on duty that Hubbard claimed to receive was also different from the Purple Heart medals given out at the time.

In Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard specifically names psychotherapy as being dangerous and impractical. Hubbard felt that other methods of mental science are based on principles that are opposed to the principles of Scientology, and Hubbard had an anathema of psychiatry and psychology until his dying day.

Wright observes that Dianetics arrived at a moment when the aftershocks of World War 2 were still being felt. And that behind the exhilarations of victory, there was immense trauma for millions of Americans. With Dianetics, Hubbard offered a do-it-yourself manual to that claimed to demystify the secrets of the human mind and produce guaranteed results, for free, and that was bound to attract a large audience.

Wright notes that given Hubbard's biography, it would be easy to dismiss Hubbard as a fraud. But that would fail to explain his total absorption in his project. Hubbard would spend the rest of his life elaborating his theory and obsessively construct the intricate bureaucracy design to spread and enshrine his understanding of human behavior.

Wright notes that for all of Hubbard's enormous wealth, he spent much of his time in his ship cabin alone, auditing himself with an E-Meter (the electronic device used Scientology auditing sessions) and developing his spiritual technology. Wright rhetorically notes that while Hubbard may have been grandiose and delusional, if Hubbard was a fraud and a con, why would he bother creating such a system?

As objective as Wright is, he takes no quarter when he details Scientology's approach to children. Hubbard viewed children as adults in small bodies. While they were physically small, Hubbard felt that they were responsible for their own behavior. Young children would be sentenced to virtual prisons for weeks, for minor infractions such as messing up an incoming telex.

In Scientology parlance, such an individual was a suppressive person. One young girl, who was deaf and mute was placed in a locker for a week because Hubbard thought it might cure her deafness.

A large part of the book deals with celebrities and how Scientology sees celebrities as a boon to the church. Wrights notes that Scientology orients itself toward celebrities and by doing so, the church awards famousness a spiritual value. People who seek fame in the entertainment industry will gravitate to Hollywood, where the Scientology Celebrity Center is waiting for them, validating their ambitions and promising a recruits a way in. The church has long pursued a marketing strategy that relies on celebrity endorsements to promote the religion.

Some celebrities prominent in the book are Paul Haggis, Travolta, Nancy Cartwright (famous for being the voice of Bart Simpson) and Tom Cruise. Haggis is an ex-Scientologist, recently leaving the church after nearly 40 years, who is interviewed in the book.

Wright is highly critical of Cruise, who he notes that probably no member of the church derives as much material benefit as Cruise does. Cruise then consequently bears a moral responsibility for the myriad indignities (which the book points out in great detail) inflicted on members of the Sea Organization (a unit of the Church, encompassing its most dedicated members), sometimes directly because of his membership.

Wright concludes with the notion that Scientology wants to be understood as a scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, but has no grounding in science at all. Serious academic study of the church has to date been constrained by the church's vindictive and litigious reputation. Researchers and academics are terrified by Scientology and reluctant to direct their research into the church. The book observes that compared with other religions, the published literature on Scientology is improvised and clouded by bogus assertions.

In Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Wright has composed a bombshell of an expose. This is a compelling and engrossing book, thoroughly researched and extensively fact checked. The book is a perfect read for a long flight as it is riveting and fascinating. Wright has a unique ability to keep the narrative flowing and interesting.

But with all that, it is not a Silent Spring, which 50 years ago helped launch the environmental movement. Had the book come out 20 years ago, it is likely that lawsuits from the church would have prevented its release until today. Yet the passive public has a short memory and Scientology has believers that sign billion year contracts with the church. As salacious as every page of this book is, one is hard-pressed to envision the church of Scientology contracting or being hurt in any way by this book.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Book Review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:50PM (#42718697)

    Litigation is actually one of the lesser threats that a Scientology critic has to face. In the past, open character assassination, attempts to jail critics (sometimes successfully), attempts to get critics audited by the IRS, attempts to get them fired from their jobs, sending private detectives to comb through their trash and harass them--these are all typical tools in the CoS toolbox. When Germany labelled them a cult, they even sent Tom Cruise to meet with Richard Armitage and Dick Cheney in 2003 in an attempt to get the U.S. government to try to strong-arm Germany (a fact that only came out by accident during the Scooter Libby/Vallorie Plame scandal, with details of those meetings still remaining largely classified).

    They've taken on entire *countries*. Hell, they even made Slashdot their bitch [slashdot.org] once.

    So litigation is the least of your worries when you mess with those guys. Kudos to Lawrence Wright for his set of brass balls.

  • by assertation (1255714) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:03PM (#42718835)

    I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

    - all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

    - all have beliefs people not brought in the religion would call
        superstition ( and less respectful terms )

    - all what people not brought in the religion would call myths.

    - all, from my viewpoint, are man-made (apologies to the women in the audience for the term )

    The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

    My guess is that "being created in murky distance" past as well as being brought up in a certain way gives other religions an aura of credibility that Scientology lacks.

    However, when you look at they claim, how they act and what they do, it all seems the same, from an atheists point of view.

    No disrespect meant to anyone.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:06PM (#42718867)

      They are still doing these acts, most other churches have been forced to stop.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by assertation (1255714)

        I mean no disrespect to you or anyone else, but that is simply not true. If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by h4rr4r (612664)

          On this scale?

          Is there any other religion right now which still keeps slaves? Or kidnaps people?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by s.petry (762400)

          Where your logic fails is blaming Religion for Human actions. There have been a lot of shitty people in the world that do shitty things to people. Blaming Religion is idiocy. Mao for example was an atheist and has the highest body count ever at 80million, followed by Stalin at roughly 20 million (Mao's numbers are easy to find, I used the standard average for Stalin though this is interesting [distributedrepublic.net]). Hitler was into the occult, not Religion, and boasts some hefty numbers as well.

          Blaming Religion becomes rathe

          • Occam's Razor: If religion has so little influence that cannot be otherwise attributed to human behaviour generally, is it necessary?

            Also, the fact that some people who were evil were not religious has no bearing on the 'evilness' of religions, and ascribing a negative property to something is not the same thing as ascribing all possible negative properties to something.

            Or if that's not clear enough, saying that something is bad is not the same as saying that it is responsible for all the bad things.

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:33PM (#42719193)

          If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

          For the most part, those shitty things aren't officially sanctioned parts of the religion. Some of the things (I'm thinking of the handling of catholic pedo priests) are widespread enough that you could make a reasonable argument that they are instuitional, but they are not doctrine To the best of my knowledge, Scientology has not had any sort of reformation yet.

          • Well, they did consult the giant spider on it after all. Isn't that how they make their doctrine?
          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Scientology has had schisms from the very start. I think most original Dianetics followers had no interest when it quickly started becoming church-like, and there's even a "Free Zone" of people who have a modern Scientology belief system (ie, they're OTs) but who are disassociated from the Church of Scientology.

            As for shitty things done by religions, most direct atrocities can also be tied to a linking of the religion with state power, a use by the state of religions, or as a political or economic tool. T

          • by tgd (2822) on Monday January 28, 2013 @07:07PM (#42720943)

            If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

            For the most part, those shitty things aren't officially sanctioned parts of the religion. Some of the things (I'm thinking of the handling of catholic pedo priests) are widespread enough that you could make a reasonable argument that they are instuitional, but they are not doctrine To the best of my knowledge, Scientology has not had any sort of reformation yet.

            You need to read some history, kid. Or... hell... play Assassin's Creed if a book is too much of a stretch for you. Because rape, murder, genocide, persecution and things like formed not only a core institutional policy of the Catholic church for five centuries -- the parts of the Bible they skipped in Sunday School *still* call out those behaviors... as the literal word of "God".

          • by Genda (560240)

            What would reformed Scientology look like... Okay, we admit the universe is only 13 billion years old, and maybe the human souls came up geysers and not volcanoes... You know, we got a little carried away.

            That said, practicing a religion based on a dare between SciFi Authors (Isaac Asimov commented, and was later verified by Heinlein's wife, in a 1980's interview that the bet was informal, and not JUST between Hubbard and Heinlein. Supposedly, it was Asimov, Heinlein, Hubbard, and Frank Herbert, more of a d

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          I mean no disrespect to you or anyone else, but that is simply not true. If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

          I have yet to read about any religion doing anything to anybody. On the other hand, I have read and seen plenty about people who profess a religion who have done shitty things to people. But there is a difference between what a religion (or one's own life philosophy) says and how well the individual follows it.

          • You can argue all day that the people aren't the religion, but at the end of the day the only real representation of any organization is how the people within it act and it can therefore be said that the religion is more the people who follow and individually interpret it than the dogma taught to them. After all without the people, there would be no religion, with or without the doctrine.
            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              You can argue all day that the people aren't the religion, but at the end of the day the only real representation of any organization is how the people within it act and it can therefore be said that the religion is more the people who follow and individually interpret it than the dogma taught to them. After all without the people, there would be no religion, with or without the doctrine.

              Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization filled with lushes and drunkards and people who yearn for the next drink. Does this color the organization, or does it color the people who have sought to change their lives from what they were into something better and demonstrated their human nature by having failed? After all, without all those drunks there would be no AA.

            • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

              You can argue all day that the people aren't the religion, but at the end of the day the only real representation of any organization is how the people within it act and it can therefore be said that the religion is more the people who follow and individually interpret it than the dogma taught to them. After all without the people, there would be no religion, with or without the doctrine.

              But that argument is bogus. Take Islam. It has specific tennets about protecting innocents in times of battle (like women and children). The majority of practicing Muslims follow those tennets. However, radical Islamists don't. Does that mean that all of Islam are violent or only those who have twisted it to mean something other than what the religion teaches (I am not a Muslim, so I don't know if I have the above exactly right or not, but you get my point).

              Take Catholics, some clerics abused young males. D

              • by s.petry (762400)

                Just as Hitler did not represent what every German believed, neither do the actions of any person of "faith" mean that they are the embodiment of their religion.

                Just a side note on this comment. I have relatives from Germany that were dumbfounded when WW II ended and they found out what Hitler had been doing. The government controlled media portrayed things very differently for the German citizens. German media told the Germans how American and British soldiers were massacring Germans and never mentioned the concentration camps. US Soldiers toured countless German citizens through the camps to open their eyes, nobody believed them at first.

                That should be a warn

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Take a look at the behavior of the Catholic Church. Priests raping children, threats against anyone who even suggests reporting them - it still leaks out of course, but then so do all of the attempts at coverups. Their current Pope was in charge of managing those cover-ups for years! Doesn't matter if the old monster didn't rape any children himself, he was a party to ensuring that the vermin who did rape children not only weren't punished, but that they were re-located to new, unsuspecting territories
      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:39PM (#42719263) Journal

        Really? When I look at this country and count the problems caused by religion, I don't see many that can be attributed to Scientology. I see a lot of them that can be attributed to mainstream Christianity though. Anti-gay bigotry. Anti-birth control. Anti-seperation of church and state. Pro-censorship. Pro-creationism in science classes. etc.

        These are all positions held by mainstream christians. Not every church has these problems, but the ones that do are pretty common. I don't remember the last time Scientology affected the national discourse the way Catholics or Baptists do.

        • I'm no fan of the scientologists either, but I have to agree with you they are relatively harmless when you look at the grand scheme of american society. The fundies have screwed up WAY more things that crazy Cruise and Johnny in the closet.
        • by jonbryce (703250)

          Only because there aren't enough Scientologists to swing the vote anywhere. If there were enough of them to vote Miscavige as President, I think we would end up with a country like North Korea.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        This I think is a big difference. Even if you feel all religions are bogus, if you see any of them acting in such manners at the present time then it should be a cause of concern. Shrugging it all off as "but everyone does it" is the wrong approach.

        Some other major differences you could probably notice. Most major religions pay attention to charity as a primary virtue to be practiced (at least as an ideal). Scientology is not big on charity even though it attempts to get tax exempt status as a charitabl

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:11PM (#42718919) Journal

      The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

      Well, as a fellow atheist to another atheist, I recommend you add a few evaluation factors when comparing religions and faiths: power structure, transparency, material cost, financial cost, temporal cost, preservation of individual sovereignty including right to leave and preservation of inalienable rights ... to name just a few.

      all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

      At least some allow us to document said unethical acts ... hell, the Church's response to child molestation charges against priests was a primary motivator to me leaving organized religion permanently. And, you know, it was super easy to get out of Catholicism ... you should talk to the lucky few who escape Scientology.

      • In catholicism's infancy it was not so easy to leave that church alive either.
        • by RR (64484)

          In catholicism's infancy it was not so easy to leave that church alive either.

          Are you joking? It's hard to tell whether you're wrong or making a subtle historical point. [wikipedia.org]

          In Catholicism's infancy, it was technically legal as a sect of Judaism. If you pushed it at Jews, you might get stoned, but it seemed harmless to others. Then Nero made it illegal, so you might "leave the church" by getting executed. But it wasn't until long afterwards that the Catholic Church became so harmful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      No one would say that ALL religions have not done bad things. But with Scientology, it seems like it is much more pervasive.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:12PM (#42718931)

      Scientology keeps its beliefs secret. You have to cough up cash to learn the beliefs. With all the major religions, the beliefs are all published and freely available (and, in many cases, promulgated way beyond the boundaries of politeness).

      Scientology drives members to donate every penny they have to the religion, and to attempt to get money out of friends and family to give to the religion. The other great religions usally cap their recommended member donations at around 10% or so.

      Scientology teaches that all non-members are enemies and are "fair game." Other religions have also done this, but the majority of them teach at least a grudging acceptance of neighbors who refuse to convert.

      So, there are some differences, though none of these discount your post. They are more alike than different. The need to rely on other humans to tell you God's will makes them all equally dangerous (with the possible exception of Buddhism since it doesn't believe in a God or Gods).

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:14PM (#42718955) Journal

      Certainly the beliefs seem equally absurd, but I would country that Scientology is in some important respects considerably different than, say, Roman Catholicism or Hinduism. Scientology is still very much a cult of personality of L. Ron Hubbard. There are no layers of retelling and recasting as you find in an ancient religion like Hinduism, nor is there really a regular theological system like you find in Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity or the older Protestant faiths. There are no real further testaments, nothing like Church Fathers who followed after the founder and enlarged, and in some ways normalized the beliefs to the wider society. Scientology has not really grown from its roots as a sort of vehicle for Hubbard's ambitions and prejudices.

      Perhaps some day it will grow out of that and become more expansive, but for now it still firmly clings to the more cultish aspects. You can call down many Christian churches for absurd beliefs and fantastical mythos, but few behave towards errant members as Scientology still insists on doing to those who won't accept its absolute authority.

    • by neminem (561346) <neminemNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:18PM (#42718993) Homepage

      I would say that the difference is: any religion will have crazy fringe sects encouraging their members to do completely absurd things, and punishing those who choose not to in horrible ways... but Scientology is one of a rather small number of religions where that isn't a fringe sect, but the entire body. (By which I mean recently - several hundred years ago, the world was a very different, far more violent place. Yes, mainstream religions were going around killing everyone, but *everyone* was going around killing everyone.)

      That and, while all religions have some absurdities in their holy works... to my knowledge, no other religions feature alien space ships that just happen to look almost identical to modern commercial airliners.

    • The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

      More importantly, it's young enough that those in charge of it (probably*) know it's all bollocks.

      (apologies to the women in the audience for the term )

      There aren't any women here. And no-one is to stone anyone - even if they do say Jehovah.

      *definitely. They definitely know it's bollocks.

    • by Joehonkie (665142) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:23PM (#42719051) Homepage
      Please show me the list of Jains who have comitted such hideous and opressive acts against their fellow man.
      • - Adolf Hitler (citation needed)
        - Pol Pot (citation needed)
        - Vlad the Impaler (citation needed)
        - Joseph Stalin (citation needed)
      • by MachDelta (704883) on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:50PM (#42720183)

        ...against their fellow man.

        Interesting choice of words. One of the (few) criticisms that has been be leveled against Jainism is that it has discriminated against women [bbc.co.uk]. It generally involves the usual excuses: women are impure during their menstral cycle, women must be clothed or they will give men evil (sexual) thoughts, etc.

        So, less evil than slaughtering thousands of non-believers (although another criticism of Jainism is that it practices extreme starvation, occasionally resulting in death), but still shy of that "untainted" mark by my estimates.

    • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:40PM (#42719285)

      I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

      I'm an atheist, but my mother-in-law is a practicing Catholic. Are parts of the Catholic church offensive? Absolutely, but I would argue they're leaps-and-bounds less bad than a gang like Scientology. No one follows Catholics around with cameras. No one oppresses Catholics who, for whatever reason, have left the church. If you object to church policy publicly eventually they might excommunicate you, but heck, if I object publicly to my employer they fire me.

      Catholics certainly don't demand that members cut off contact with their families.

      The Catholic church, at least here in Vancouver, does all kinds of charitable works with the poor and suffering - In the 80s it was the local Catholic hospital that was treating gay men who were dying of aids, back when other hospitals were putting up barriers. When asked why, the Catholic organizations replied that they were practicing Jesus's teachings. I don't see any evidence of the local Scientology "church" doing any good works, other than free "personality tests" which is nothing but indoctrination.

    • by Sigg3.net (886486) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:44PM (#42719357) Homepage

      Yes, there are notable differences:

      1. Scientology adheres to rigorously pouring out your soul, which it keeps records of.

        2. Scientology employs methods to erase your self-esteem that is taken from Soviet counterintelligence.

      3. Scientology isolates members from nonmembers. This is ascribed to cults, not religions.

      4. The E-meter ritual basically employs a lie detector to read emotional stress when talking about vulnerable episodes in the subject's life, which the subject then must render unemotional.

      5. Scientology's worldview is essentially a naive 1950s, and it cannot evolve from it; because only Hubbard can write the truth. This is apparent in their anti-psychology stance and views of science.

      6. There is no inter-faith collaboration as with all of the world religions.

      7. Scientology employs a special language and terminology which categorizes and classifies aspects of the world, especially all potential "enemies" (SPs). This is cult methodology.

      8. A person reaching 'clear' may need years of deprogramming to function in modern society and just learn to trust people again.

      9. There is no individualism and no constructive criticism, just obedient navy suits. A Scientologist learns to think in truisms, so analytical thought is out of the question.

      10. Scientology's structure is militarist / fascist and incompatible with democracy.

      Feel free to add to the list.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      However, when you look at they claim, how they act and what they do, it all seems the same, from an atheists point of view.

      Assuming that atheism is correct, which would mean that religion is just a philosophy instead of a theology, then it should be relatively easy to judge a religion based on its philosophical teachings instead of how any individual follower of those teachings lived up to the standard. In other words, what does the religious philosophy stand for? If, as in christianity, it is do unto others as you would have them do unto you, then is that such a bad philosophy from an atheistic point of view? There seem to be

      • by retchdog (1319261)

        it should be relatively easy to judge a religion based on its philosophical teachings instead of how any individual follower of those teachings lived up to the standard

        yes, in fact it is trivial to do so, but it is not the only ``atheistic way'' to judge a religion (an atheist, it would seem, can judge any religion by any standard except one which assumes the deity actually exists). further, is that the correct way to judge a religion?

        and actually you're entirely wrong; religion is not ``just'' a philosophy

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      Don't hand out that "No Disrespect Meant to Anyone" BS. You whole heatedly intended to offend anyone who wasn't a Nieve Atheist like yourself. Maybe it's the fact that you're feel that you're not personally connected to any of the Secular atrocities committed. Everyone, not just the religious, are crazy nut jobs capable of being manipulated into doing outrageous things. Your arrogance in lumping all religion into an abstract "them" makes you no different than the nut jobs with the Cult of Reason. There hasn
    • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:00PM (#42719575)

      - all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

      But Scientology is an unethical institution. That can be said about pre-Lutheran Christianity, Islam during its jihadist spread, and Hinduism with the caste system applied. But I find it hard to point to, say, the Lutheran Church as being an unethical institution at any point in time. Or Buddhists. I'm sure someone would be quick to point out terrible things done by Buddhists or Lutherans, but that's not the same as the institution being unethical in its organization and practice. So no, not all religions have done unethical acts. People of all religions have most likely done unethical acts, but one would be hard pressed to find any person, religious or not, who has a clean record in that regard.

      - all have beliefs people not brought in the religion would call superstition

      Read Immanuel Kant. Even if you disagree with him, the basis of his philosophy (which is the basis of his Christianity), is logic. He was a logic professor. One would be hard pressed to label what many Buddhists believe to be superstition as well. I suggest you read some interviews with the Dali Lama, or better yet, one of his books. If you think that religion necessarily involves an invisible man in the sky, you don't know much about religion.

      - all what people not brought in the religion would call myths.

      Again, this is simply not true. While myths are common with most religions, 1) the inclusion or exclusion of myths has no bearing on whether a theology is defined as a religion 2) even when myths are present, that has no bearing on whether the theology is objectively true or not. Most non-fundamentalist Christians, for example, don't believe any myths. Do you believe the Trojan War occurred? [wikipedia.org] Many myths are based on fact. The definition of 'myth' is pretty ambiguous. Oftentimes the only thing distinguishing a myth from a fable is that at one point the myth was taken to be literal truth. Most religious people don't believe the myths they preserve, such as Jesus turning water into wine. It's not like Greeks think that Zeus is a part of their history.

      - all, from my viewpoint, are man-made (apologies to the women in the audience for the term)

      First, in English 'man' isn't necessarily masculine if the sex is unknown or it's used to encompass both men and women. There's no need to apologize for using proper English.

      Regarding your actual point, this one is a doozy. It's a sort of chicken/egg type question, but anyone who believes in objective morality would argue against your point. Robert Pirsig, who to the best of my knowledge isn't religious, argued that man didn't make God, God made man. What he meant was that our morality, our sense of good, is the characteristic that uniquely defines what it is to be human. This is something that man discovers through the application of logic (Aquinas, Kant, etc.), it's not something that man makes up on a whim. It wouldn't be objectively true if that were the case. Man cannot discover something that doesn't exist, hence objective morality, which is the goal of every religion to uncover (note: this is a key reason why Scientology is a cult, not a religion).

      from an atheists point of view.

      And what point of view would that be? Most atheists seem to be disinterested in religion in general and don't take the time to learn about it. You seem to be one of those. You sound like the uniformed guy who doesn't vote who says, "All politicians are the same, the political parties are all the same, etc." To me, all reality TV shows are the same, but since I don't really watch them, since I'm thoroughly uniformed about their specifics, I wouldn't take the bold step forward of claiming such a statement to be objectively true.

      • Most atheists seem to be disinterested in religion in general and don't take the time to learn about it.

        Not my experience. Quite the opposite really. Because of the general default of religion, most atheists I know have had to come to those conclusions by themselves. As a result they tend to be quite knowledgable.

        You sound like the uniformed guy who doesn't vote who says, "All politicians are the same, the political parties are all the same, etc."

        And for mainstream parties, it's true to a first order appr

        • by s.petry (762400)

          Not my experience. Quite the opposite really. Because of the general default of religion, most atheists I know have had to come to those conclusions by themselves. As a result they tend to be quite knowledgable.

          Absolutely rare, not the normal. The majority of atheist are bigoted and won't learn about any theism. Just read /. for a while. The same stereotypes or childhood memories always repeat. Actual knowledge of Philosophy and theory do not exist. Perhaps you are an exception, or you have met a couple. I admit to meeting a few knowledgable atheists, but it's maybe 1% that know anything about 1 Religion. To be fair, most theists only know about their religion and don't know the Philosophy any better than an

    • by roca (43122)

      A major difference between Scientology and the major religions (mine's Christianity) is that the latter are "open source": everything a believer might need to know is freely available to everyone.

      Another major difference w.r.t. Christianity (for example, because I know it best) is that every major Christian denomination agrees you don't have to belong to one particular human institution to "be saved". Scientology and other cults teach there is no hope outside their institutions, so threat of expulsion gives

    • Would "Christianity" still be a religion in your mind if Jesus came out of the skies and said "Waddup!!" to everyone while simultaneously parting seas, curing cancer, and telling everyone to quit hating on the homos because he loves them even if they're not living exactly according to his desires? Or if that happened would you reclassify Christianity to something else so you can keep your angry little classification of religion intact. Maybe Christianity would become a branch of science (maybe... Intelligen
      • Also, do you believe one could be an atheist and reasonably believe in a form of intelligent design? Why or why not?

        I'll answer this one: It doesn't matter what one's religious persuasion is, they cannot reasonably believe in a form of intelligent design. Intelligent design fails the test of reason, and even if it didn't, it fails empirically. Most importantly, the theory it attempts to compete with, evolution, passes both logical and empirical tests.

        Even before the term 'intelligent design' was coined and before there was enough hard, empirical evidence to instill the confidence in evolution that the scientific communit

        • by s.petry (762400)

          I'll answer this one: It doesn't matter what one's religious persuasion is, they cannot reasonably believe in a form of intelligent design. Intelligent design fails the test of reason, and even if it didn't, it fails empirically.

          That is absolutely false. Statistically speaking, there is absolutely no chance of life happening accidentally. You read someone's BS and never read real statistics.

          Most importantly, the theory it attempts to compete with, evolution, passes both logical and empirical tests.

          What? Intelligent design gives a reason for evolution. It does not change what evolution is or how it works. It's not competing at all. From an atheist perspective there is no "why" things occur. We are just supposed to believe that things can pop in and out of existence at any time.. like a Universe. Which is not logical by the way. If

    • by Dave Emami (237460) on Monday January 28, 2013 @06:28PM (#42720579) Homepage

      One major difference: other religions don't sue you for quoting their writings. When was the last time someone got sued for publishing passages of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Upanishads, or the Buddhavacana? What other religions claim to have legally-enforceable trade secrets?

      Mind you, I'm a little bit biased here. For several years I worked at a business whose management was made up almost entirely of Scientologists. There's nothing wrong with that per se -- if you start a small business, you're likely to give jobs to people you know, and if you're religious, then it's likely a lot of people you know go to your church. However, they ran things using what's called "Hubbard Management Technology", which is really just a thinly-veiled rebranding of Scientology itself. Again, there's nothing wrong with using one's religion as an ethical guide at work -- "thou shalt not steal -> don't bill clients for more hours than it took", for example. But this stuff was all-pervasive, including advocating "sue your critics to shut them up", how proper training should be conducted, assigning employees positions on the Scientology "conditions" scale and making them do "rehabilitation projects" if they weren't high enough (luckily they never tried that on non-Scientologist employees), decisions on how to do safety classes (always done by a chiropractor due to Scientologist opinions on regular doctors), etc. There was also a lot of silly cargo-cult stuff, basically "Hubbard did this when running his church, so we have to do it that way now." Hubbard reviewed stats on Thursday? We have to do stats on Thursday. Hubbard used certain color marks on different types of memos? We have to use those colors on our memos. It's basically akin to a Christian coming up with a "Jesus Management Technology", with rules like "your company has to have twelve departments, because Jesus had twelve apostles. Also, the water in the drinking fountains must be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm."

      One non-sinister incident, which we programmers (non-Scientologists all) found hilarious at the time: We were working towards releasing a new version, and keeping track of the daily open bug count as we fixed things. To give us an idea of our progress, we had a line graph on a whiteboard. Company president comes in, looks at the graph, and frowns. Apparently, there's a Scientology rule somewhere that when you make a graph, "good" must be "up." (They set enormous store by "stats"). Obviously, bugs are bad, so having more bugs be higher on the graph than fewer bugs is wrong verging on blasphemy. He then proceeds to carefully redraw our graph with the Y-axis inverted, 0 at the top, and the previous peak bug count at the bottom of the whiteboard, so that as bugs were fixed we'd be "up-stat", and the graph would go "up" towards a bug-free release. Objections from us were met with a firm "no, no, you have to draw it like that" -- but in a nice, gentle way, as if we programmers just didn't have the deep understanding of such things that trained Scientologists do. We went along with it, along with much chuckling among ourselves, until the testers started in on a major feature they hadn't gone over yet -- and the bug count went higher than the previous maximum, so that drawing the graph would now involve drawing lines on the air below the whiteboard.

    • by martyros (588782) on Monday January 28, 2013 @06:35PM (#42720647)

      However, when you look at they claim, how they act and what they do, it all seems the same, from an atheists point of view.

      Well if you squint funny everything looks the same. But there are pretty important differences in practice. The thing that has people up in arms about scientology isn't the belief system. It's how they treat the outside world, their own members, and in particular how they treat former members. I grew up going to churches, including some pretty fundamentalist ones. But no one would ever disown or harrass people who left. Nor if anyone was talking about leaving would they be threatened with death (as a Muslim friend of mine was threatened by his brother, when he even tried to bring the subject of Christianity up).

      The other thing is this: Have you ever been in or seen an abusive, manipulative, controlling relationship? A lot of times on the outside everything looks pretty normal. A lot of the external activities and things that manipulative / abusive people say look similar to those in a real, loving relationship. Both the abuser and the abusee frequently distort reality to maintain the fiction that they have a normal, loving relationship. But inside it's *very* different; but often in a way you can't really see clearly at first.

      The same thing happens with religion. Human feelings surrounding religion, just like human feelings surrounding love, are very powerful. Most religious groups that have been around for a long time satisfy these feelings in a fairly healthy way. But just like there are people who can take feelings of love and affection and use them to manipulate people, resulting in an abusive relationship, there are religious organizations that can take the feelings that motivate people to follow a religion and use them to manipulate people as well, resulting in the cult.

      This is the distinction between the modern words "cult" and a "religion". A religion is like a healthy friendship or romantic relationship: there's no element of control or manipulation. A cult is like an abusive relationship: all about control, manipulation, and abuse.

      And what people are saying about Scientology is that it shows a lot of the classic signs of a cult -- and in some ways a particularly nasty one. That's certainly not to say it's the only cult out there; and it's not to say that there aren't other religious organizations that dabble in manipulation, or tend towards the controlling side. But it is particularly important given their size, and their history of attacking critics.

    • by tgd (2822)

      No disrespect meant to anyone.

      And, this is a big part of the problem. As long as we, as a society, choose to "respect" people who live outside the realm of reality -- and force their particular brand of insanity on others -- things won't improve.

      So let me echo everything you said, and add that I fundamentally mean to disrespect anyone who happens to fall under those points.

    • When you start is more about clearing your mind and how to live rather than some supernatural scaffolding like many religions. That would make it more like contemplative Buddhism or Epicurism. But if you go deep enough into the church there is some way out supernatural aspect in later courses.

      The "religious" aspect seemed to be more of a ruse to avoid taxes and government interference. But other churches sometimes abuse this too.
  • The Real Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:04PM (#42718849)

    The real problem isn't people who believe in invisible martians (for fun and profit), it's the legal system that lets them torment other people with flagrant abandon.

    If you have enough money and a good team of lawyers you can effectively destroy someone else's life.

    We live in a nightmare world.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      The real problem isn't people who believe in invisible martians (for fun and profit), it's the legal system that lets them torment other people with flagrant abandon.

      If you have enough money and a good team of lawyers you can effectively destroy someone else's life.

      We live in a nightmare world.

      That doesn't take religion. The RIAA does it all the time.

      • And that is what makes Scientology so dangerous. It is as if RIAA claimed to be a religion in order to protect their litigiousness and greed behind a shield of anti-discrimination laws and tax exempt status.

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          And that is what makes Scientology so dangerous. It is as if RIAA claimed to be a religion in order to protect their litigiousness and greed behind a shield of anti-discrimination laws and tax exempt status.

          And that is what makes Scientology so dangerous. It is as if RIAA claimed to be a religion in order to protect their litigiousness and greed behind a shield of anti-discrimination laws and tax exempt status.

          Actually, the RIAA is tax exempt,

  • While I appreciate the writeup and found it interesting, perhaps you should have someone proofread your writings before publishing them. There are far too many errors in this thing.

    That said, Scientologists are batshit insane and information is their enemy. It's great to see a book like this published and receiving so much attention.

    • Thank you for the comments. In my haste to get this review out, I was not as diligent in proofreading as I should have. With that, you are correct that information is their enemy. I hope my grammatical errors in the review don’t get in the way of Mr. Wrights important message. Thanks again.
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:19PM (#42719003)

    But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising

    From reports I've seen Scientology continues to grow in the sense of buying up property and growing its bank acount, but is not growing and even losing members. Lets not give this science fiction religion credit for anything it really isn't doing.

  • There was a local sci "compound" in the neighborhood. Every time you drive by, the radio reception gets all screwed up.

    It seems to have been sold recently. The signs are down, the buildings are being totally gutted, pulling out dry walls, insulation, and everything.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:26PM (#42719095) Homepage

    I'm not a Scientologist. I've encountered a few (to the best of my knowledge, fairly low ranking), and they on average seemed no better or worse than most anyone else. And as far as their belief system goes, I'm not sure it's any crazier than any other religious belief system.

    A friend of a friend, though, came up with an excellent evaluation rubric to determine how dangerous it was to belong to any organization, regardless of their beliefs. This has been used by law enforcement as well as cult survivor organizations. The tool is the ABCDEF [unc.edu], short for Advanced Bonewits (the inventor's name) Cult Danger Evaluation Framework.

    The idea here is that you don't rate the groups beliefs at all. Instead, you rate their behavior. Groups that score low on the ABCDEF are those that are open about what they believe and stand for, have rights and reasonable expectations of members, and make it easy to leave. Which means that if they or their leadership start getting really crazy, normal people can see that and leave.

    So a reasonable position might be that Scientology is a belief system like any other, but the Church of Scientology is dangerous.

    • by terjeber (856226)

      I'm not sure it's any crazier than any other religious belief system.

      It is. Whackier than any other I think. Funny is, the people who were friends with L. Ron Hubbard when he, drinking profusely, created Scientology at a bar in Manhattan Beach, CA, still remember the "event" pretty well.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Really? Let me present some popular religious beliefs, you tell me which is most rational:
        1. an alien overlord abused a bunch of other aliens, and the victim's souls affect us today
        2. an omnipotent omniscient benevolent invisible man
        3. reincarnation of all people's souls, forever
        4. reincarnation of all people's souls, unless they do some sort of meditation thing that allows them to escape the cycle into a state of pure bliss
        5. sacrificing a chicken will make your sister's baby healthier
        6. a bunch of immorta

        • 2. an omnipotent omniscient benevolent invisible man

          I find it kind of interesting that everybody likes to bring up the invisible bit. You wouldn't be very omnipotent if the puny humans could walk in on you by accident...

          6. a bunch of immortal beings who aren't omnipotent but like to control things with a few well-placed thunderbolts or monsters or bits of advice

          If you were immortal, wouldn't *you* eventually start fucking around with people? Forever is a long time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Puh-leez. Scientology has been consistently losing members and shrinking in size and power for at least 15 years, if not longer. Check out www.xenu.net and www.factnet.org for more details.

    David Miscavige's successful takeover of the cult has been a disaster for them, and the Internet has been a much worse one because the cult's secrets are now so readily available.

  • Scientology's Growth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday January 28, 2013 @04:32PM (#42719181) Homepage Journal

    "But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising."

    Scientology stopped growing a long time ago. All of their claims about them being "fastest growing religion" are lies, pure and simple.

    They reached their peak in the 70's and early 80's. After Hubbard died and Miscavige took over, their membership's been declining steadly ever since. Ask anyone who's been around the orgs in the 70's and 80's. Look up the service completion stats in the Auditor magazine from that time period and compare to recent numbers.

    Miscavige is no Hubbard, he doesn't have a cult leader's charisma or reality distortion field. However, he turned out to be very talented as a brutal dictator and a bully. He can put used car salesmen to shame when it comes to high-pressure sales tactics.

    So while Miscavige has been unable to inspire people or attract new followers, he has used his talents to beat the staff into submission and extract/extort more and more money from the existing public. But lately with the Super Power scam he's taken it to a new level, and things are so bad that even diehard loyalists are speaking out.

    Debbie Cook (longtime Captain of Flag) complains about the relentless money-grubbing and tells the Scientology public to disobey Miscavige's non-Hubbard-policies. [villagevoice.com]

    Jan. 2013 - High level public members Luis and Rocio Garcia sue Scientology for fraud [huffingtonpost.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one bothered by the hideous abuse of grammar and incredibly juvenile writing of this review? I literally could not get through the second paragraph, it was so distracting and off-putting. Tenses are constantly switching, sentences are stilted and disconnected, even basic grammatical constructs are misused. It's not like you have to wait -- the very first sentence ("Scientology has long called anyone who has written against them as having a vendetta") is a complete abomination.

    • by tilante (2547392)

      I refer you to the Robustness Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle). It applies to natural languages as well as artificial ones.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:02PM (#42719607) Homepage

    Does anybody still care about Scientology? They've been shrinking since Hubbard died. They've sort of centralized at Clearwater, FL, but other than that, not much seems to be going on.

    The amusing thing about Scientology is that it doesn't use science. It's locked into Hubbard's writings and 1930s technology. The "E-meter" is a skin resistance measuring device, the least useful of the three classical polygraph channels. By now, Scientology should have had online and mobile systems as part of their "auditing" process. A modern "E-meter" should have heart rate, respiration, and face gesture recognition sensors, with functional MRI in R&D. But no, they're still using skin resistance.

    This may be just as well. With modern sensors, and detailed historical data for each member, much more monitoring and control over the emotional states of members would be possible. Fortunately, Scientology is too inept to bring that off.

  • Just from reading this review. My god, this review was written by an alleged author? If I were to print it and mark up the grammar errors, the page would be covered in red ink...

    • by geddo (1412061)
      It's brilliant, fighting Scientology with its own logic. When the legal attacks come he will not have to defend what no one can understand.
  • Rock Center is an NBC television news magazine run by Brian Williams, the main evening anchor. Recently they did a story on this book. I thought the attempt was bold, considering the blowback they'll get from the church. NBC did not spend much time talking about the beliefs, which can get wild at times. But they talked about how the church manipulates some of its members lives. There was a couple who had been clergy level for 30 years before they left. The couple and church fought over whether they could fi
  • I was attended the Denver county Fair last summer. The church had a large booth with a half dozen counselors showing how their e-meter sessions worked. I was surprised to see the sessions fully occupied most of the time and not much snickering among the bystanders. The church openly used their name which was not always the case in the past. I presume they discuss some simple childhood memory, like losing a favorite toy. Then explore the emotions tied with this memory. Then you can sign up and pay thousands
  • by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @02:29AM (#42723289)

    well, ok, a funny image macro on tumblr said:

    In a CULT there's one guy at the top who knows it's a scam.

    In a RELIGION that guy is dead.

    Ergo, Scientology is indeed a religion.

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