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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  25,757 Ratings  ·  3,530 Reviews
A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack, the Looming Tower. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extr ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 430 pages
Published January 17th 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Michael The personal biography on Hubbard can be quite disturbing. For me, that was the slowest part of the book. The book seemed to pick up and be much more…moreThe personal biography on Hubbard can be quite disturbing. For me, that was the slowest part of the book. The book seemed to pick up and be much more interesting to me after that part.(less)

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Eric Kibler
Mar 21, 2013 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing
What a terrible and scurrilous attack on a noble and helpful religion! What a libel against its honest and self-effacing founder and prophet, L. Ron Hubbard! And upon its current and not at all insane leader, David Miscavige, who is by no means a sadistic tyrant! And upon Tom Cruise, who is not at all a megalomaniacal weirdo! everyone gone? Is it safe? Okay, I really liked this book. It's a hard hitting exposé of Scientology that has to be read to be believed. That first paragraph above
Apr 08, 2015 brian rated it really liked it
This is a vile viscous book which is a pack of lies!!!! And lawrence writght hates the first amendmant and free speech and religous freedom and -- heh heh heh. not really. lawrence wright is the living badass who's written all about religion & the 'prison of belief', most notable for his truly great pulitzer prize winning study of radical islam, the looming tower.

i've written elsewhere in these hallowed halls of goodreads about the will to believe -- about how, atheist grouch and PTS/SP* th
Moira Russell
I have really mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I don't want to give it a bad rating, because I don't think it's a bad book, and I really appreciate all the time and effort Wright and hundreds of other people (seriously: read the acknowledgements) put into investigating Scientology. He is almost painfully even-handed, even if the rain-on-the-roof effect of the constant footnotes cementing the Wall of Denial "the church" is trying to put up around his findings ("Tom Cruise has neve ...more
Bill  Kerwin
Oct 13, 2015 Bill Kerwin rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, religion

Not an untypical story of a modern cult: a paranoid narcissist with a few interesting ideas starts a religion, abuses his followers, and nearly implodes a couple of times before a sadomasochistic sociopath takes the reins, summoning dark order out of chaos. Narcissist recedes into background, sociopath assumes complete control, narcissist dies, and everything runs more smoothly and more evilly than before. Until all of a sudden it doesn't.

This is a dreary book, for both these two--the narcissist
Apr 23, 2015 Nataliya rated it really liked it
“This is not a church or a religious organization,” the labor minister, Norbert Blum, told Maclean’s magazine. “Scientology is a machine for manipulating human beings.”
Yes, I already saw the HBO documentary 'Going Clear' based on this hefty tome by Lawrence Wright, and so it was obvious that I'd just have to read the book that made it possible. After all, for any dedicated reader the idea that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' simply means that there are thousands of words that should be r
What a hoot! A religion started by a bad science-fiction writer. OMG, the greed, the debauchery, the paranoia, the totalitarian re-education camps, the power trips, the murders, the mayhem, the countless lives ruined, the advent of the petty sociopath David Miscavige. And I thought the history of the Roman Catholic church was scandalous. It is, but the Church of Scientology is giving that hoary institution a run for its money —and it's all about the money of course. The Roman Catholic Church has ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Dec 16, 2014 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: truthiness
Wright gets an extra star and my slack-jawed admiration for his willingness to face stalking, slander, harassment, and a potential avalanche of bankrupting litigation in order to write a book that his own UK publisher wouldn't even release for fear of the retaliatory powers of what I initially thought was just a bunch of kooky, celebrobsessed Fox Mulder types, but who are actually just a 100% fucking terrifying cult, cult, cult who sues or smears or snuffs out anyone and everyone who gets in the ...more
Oct 15, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it
This book is horrifying. I knew a bit about Scientology before I started reading, but was unprepared for how much craziness and violence there was in this cult religion.

I listened to this on audio, and there were many times I actually gasped when some shocking detail was revealed. Such as when members were locked in a room for days with little to eat or drink, and they were forced to fight each other during a game of musical chairs. They were told that those who didn't get a chair would be kicke
Jun 10, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015, cult
Every organized religion has it's bat-shit-crazy parts. I don't belong to any religion myself because of this reason, but if a person gets something meaningful out of being a part of such an organization, I'm not one to judge them.

But Scientology is not a religion. It's just not. It was formed by bat-shit-crazy L. Ron Hubbard to avoid paying taxes. That's it.

This book is fascinating and terrifying. This 'church' has held people against their will for years and has somehow avoided being shut dow
Jan 26, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
I honestly don't understand how anyone could have listened to L. Ron Hubbard and thought, "Yeah, that guy knows what he's talking about."
I'm almost done with this book but I think my favorite part just happened. A scientologist was offended by the notion of the leader, David Miscavige, being compared to Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that someone would consider that to be an unfavorable association actually made me laugh out loud.

Fascinating. Just fascinating.
Jan 04, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2015
"Earth is an insane asylum, to which the other planets deport their lunatics."
- Voltaire, in Memnon the Philosopher


I remember when I was first exposed to Scientology. A good friend of mine in HS suggested I read L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth*. I politely declined. Space opera just wasn't my thing. But I never forgot L. Ron Hubbard. Occasionally in used bookstores I'd see one of his other books: Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, The Way To Happiness, etc. Again, I would politel
Quick and Dirty Analysis (I know I can get long-winded)
Good book, well-researched, that will tell you all you want to know (and possibly more) about the inner workings of Scientology.

"Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing." - Ken Kesey
I think a good litmus test for people, movements, groups etc., is their ability to laugh at themselves. Yes, some things in life are very serious, but almost anything, when taken to an extreme, becomes humorously absurd. Consequently, one of the re
Feb 05, 2013 Heidi rated it it was amazing
This book was well researched,and very scary. I only knew bits and pieces about Scientology, mostly that they believe in aliens. Other than that I had no idea. Hubbard seemed to be suffering from some kind of psychotic illness. The biography part of just Ron Hubbard is unstable and strange. It's like reading how to be a psychotic con man 101. I always question how people suspend rational thought long enough to believe in any religion. I really liked Lawrence explaining that people who join these ...more
Adam Yoshida
Jan 21, 2013 Adam Yoshida rated it it was amazing
"It is like history writ with lightning. My only regret is that it is all so terribly true."
- Woodrow Wilson, on first viewing "The Birth of a Nation"

In "Going Clear" Lawrence Wright does something that surprised me: he managed to make Scientology (or, at least, the people who run the Church) more repellant to me than they were going in, but he also manages to satisfactorily explain how such an organization could come to be and why people would follow it. This is a masterful feat.

It's clear enou
Nancy Oakes
May 13, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing
Once in a while you pick up a book that just literally blows you away, and for me, Going Clear is one of these. From the first words through the last, I have to say I was completely mesmerized and well entrenched in this page turner of a book -- even missing a day on a Maui beach to finish it -- some of the stuff in here is so unbelievable that you just know it has to be real. If you're an ardent Scientologist, you probably won't want to read this book, but for anyone who's interested in looking ...more
The first part of this book is about L. Ron Hubbard, and his success in formulating a new religion, and carrying out his somewhat paranoid desires of domestic espionage. Reminds me a lot of Max Weber's treatment of 'institutional charisma', as well as a look at LRH's personal paranoia, yet staggering creativity, to create a theology from whole cloth.

The second is an evenhanded look at the more sensational and deranged behavior of the church post 1989. David Miscavige's behavior is Maoist, with
Apr 17, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: John Koskinen
Shelves: religion

I suspect I'm like a lot of people - I thought of Scientology as some goofy, ridiculous, idiotic self-help system that sucked thousands of dollars out of people's pockets - albeit one with unjustifiable tax-exempt status. It's so much worse. The stories of abuse are pretty horrendous - back in the L. Ron Hubbard days, Sea Org members who needed to be punished for something would be "overboarded" from the large ship they lived on - the first person was dropped from a height of four stories but th
Mar 22, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
Harrowing, well-written and researched.
Yet at two crucial points the narrative jumped to a head-scratching conclusion. First, you have a litany of L. Ron Hubbard's spiraling downward: poor health (physical and mental) and inability to make a living. Suddenly this person has written Dianetics. Same with how David Miscavige suddenly elbows aside LRH's chosen successors. Not enough info about how he did it and where he came from.

The book's conclusion was unsatisfying. It trails off in Paul Haggis's
Going Clear is a hard book to rate. It is undoubtedly meticulously researched - the author undertook a massive investigation into its subject matter and spoke to over two hundred Scientologists, and received countless letters threatening legal action from lawyers representing the Church and its members - and contains much valuable facts and historical data regarding what is arguably the world's richest and most reclusive religion, but at the same time shies away from being a definite book on the ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Jenna rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a well researched book and I found it very fascinating and scary. I really don't understand the lure of Scientology but then again I am not in a position to. Am I nervous to leave a detailed review...slightly. But my review is short mostly because I am pressed for time, or so I tell myself.
This 2013 National Book shortlist nominee for the Nonfiction Award is in many ways a classic of investigative journalism. There is practically nothing Wright left out about the ways and means the Church of Scientology was established and how it continues. Considering the Church is shrouded in secrecy and its documents confidential, this was a strenuous bit of digging. His thoughts at the end of the book are enlightening, especially the bit about art—how this church seems deficient in artworks, t ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Incredibly interesting tale of L Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Wright considers all viewpoints and tries to help the reader understand what made Hubbard tick and why so many people followed his teachings. The most abhorrent aspects of Scientology were its totalitarian hold on the lives of its followers. Conformity at all costs: separating families, incarcerating people for minor "infractions" including non-conformism, spying, and rounding up runaways to bring them back. Everyone knows that John T ...more
Julia Silka
Feb 07, 2013 Julia Silka rated it it was amazing
This is such a great book, I want to punch someone in the face.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief is written in three parts as the name suggests, all equally gripping. I couldn’t put it down. Hard to dispute the content given the thorough research and great journalism by Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright. Everyone’s buzzing about it. Just today I heard a report that Tom Cruise’s lawyer declared the book, “boring”. That's all you got? Well, it's not so. It
May 02, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Reading this I thought I'd learn more about Scientology's secret doctrine. Just what exactly do they teach at OT III (answer: it's crazy)... Who was L Ron Hubbard (answer: a crazy person, to say the least)... But this book is also a whole lot more. I was shocked to learn about many of the abuses perpetrated by church leaders against lower ranked Scientologists. Shocked to read about the level to which Tom Cruise and other celebrities are complicit in these abuses (especially Tom Cruise). I was l ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Karla rated it it was amazing
Dear Lawrence Wright,


* * *

I'm finding it impossible to organize the hundreds of thoughts I have about this book.

The only regret I have is that it could have been far more comprehensive...if That Authoritarian Cult had a cooperative bone in its twisted little body. But cooperation and "shadowy, secretive cult" are incompatible concepts. If David Miscavige hates Wright's end product, he had it within his power to cooperate because, if anything, Wright shows a willingness to be fair and
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Be suspicious of any contract for indentured servitude that lasts a billion years.
Kater Cheek
Mar 05, 2013 Kater Cheek rated it it was amazing
This is an impressively researched book, and I have to admire Wright's courage in covering something as controversial as Scientology. I enjoyed this (audio) book not so much because I had a curiosity about Scientology, but because it helped me solidify my feelings about religion and religious freedom and the difference between a cult and a religion. So this review is going to be as much essay as review, and if you're religious, you will probably feel insulted.

The book starts out as a biography o
Apr 08, 2013 Tosh rated it really liked it
New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright's take on Scientology, which is a combination of scary and super interesting. It is sort of two books in one. The first part deals with L. Ron Hubbard, pulpy science fiction writer who founded a cause, a religion, a movement that is very much part of the Southern California landscape. But he took it further then any other spiritual movement or church. When I read this part I thought of Howard Hughes. And also thought of the film "The Master" who is clearly based ...more
Beata R
Apr 04, 2013 Beata R rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
This reads like a crime novel, and is at times as improbable as it is fascinating. What is improbable is that this "religion" has committed basic human rights violations, committed tax fraud, and shamelessly manipulated the public without repercussion- while also filling its coffers in tax havens around the world. The fact that cults like Scientology and Mormon sects like the Church of Latter Day Saints succeed in violating constitutional laws on a daily basis while being shielded by the religio ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Apr 18, 2015 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I've read several books about Scientology and this one is a very well done and researched one. There is by the way a documentary by the author which I watched on TV the other night. There you can see just a few of the interviews that went into this book.

I'm not going to rehash the book, it's large, detailed and I'd suggest you read it. I can't do justice to the contents in a review. The author does his best to be fair to the "cult" and touches on a lot of things that haven't (at least in detail)
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There is more than one author with this name

Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. He is a graduate of Tulane University, and for two years taught at the American University in Cairo in Egypt.

Wright graduated from Woodrow Wilson High
More about Lawrence Wright...

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“Religion is always an irrational enterprise, no matter how ennobling it may be to the human spirit.” 4 likes
“The baby boom eventually prompted Hubbard to order that no one could get pregnant without his permission; according to several Sea Org members, any woman disobeying his command would be "off-loaded" to another Scientology organization or flown to New York for an abortion.” 2 likes
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