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The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology
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The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  564 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree. Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on and followed and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera and his infamous 'exploding toma ...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published January 7th 2013 by Silvertail Books
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Jan 07, 2013 Manny marked it as to-read
I just read the author's rather interesting piece from today's Independent:

The Church of Scientology is a cult whose core aim is to fight a space alien Satan that's brainwashed the rest of us. The Church fights the world's insanity, its celebrity followers argue, and people who tell you differently are bigots. So who's right?

Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has written what promises to be a great book on Scientology. Going Clear is due to be published everywhere on 17 Jan
Michael Jecks
The Church of Fear - Inside the Weird World of Scientology, by John Sweeney (@johnsweeneyroar) - is a stunning read.

This book is an in-depth analysis of an investigation into the Scientologists (I cannot give them the title of "Church" because I do not believe an organisation so focussed on money should be given that honour) by John Sweeney and the Panorama team from the BBC. Sweeney conducted his researches originally in 2007 for a programme.

Scientology describes Sweeney as "a bigot and a liar
Objective this book isn't. Entertaining it is. BBC journalist John Sweeney recounts his highly personal tour around the downright weird world of Scientology, as he makes a Panorama documentary on the subject over a number of years. Much of the book is dialogue from that documentary, now famous for the "exploding tomato" bit, where the mental strain of going up against this mega (or not so mega, as the book reveals) church/cult/money-making machine caused Sweeney to erupt in a fit of rage viewed ...more
Gavin Smith
Before getting into my (fairly negative) review of this book, I want to write a little about my opinion of Scientology and religion in general. Firstly, the tenets of Scientology seem no more or less ridiculous to me than those of any other religion. Space aliens, loaves and fishes, virgins for martyrs, fighting giants, cutting off Medusa's head, trekking to Mt. Doom: I'd be hard pressed to tell you what the difference is in the credibility of these things save for age and the lengths that adher ...more
This is the second book about Scientology that I've read recently. You can check out my review of Going Clear for my earlier impression.

Unlike Going Clear, Church Fear makes almost no attempt at objectivity and for understandable reason. During the course of filming a documentary about the Church of Scientology, John Sweeney engaged in a series of escalating confrontations with church spokesman, Tommy Davis. These culminated in a screaming match between the two, in which they both end up trading
Incredibly interesting book if you want to find out what the inner workings of Scientology are.

John Sweeney is best known as the BBC reporter who became briefly famous for breaking down into a rage with a member of the "church" of Scientology, accusing them of attempting to brainwash them.

Here Sweeney uncovers exactly what lead to that breakdown, which he is apologetic for throughout the book.

Scientology is damned in this book, not really by the words and allegations of their accusers and ex-
I bought this book after having watched the unrelated BBC Panorama documentary, North Korea Undercover, reported and hosted by John Sweeney, the same author of this book. My reason for buying this book is that I have had a fleeting glimpse into what Scientology was about and wanted to find out more. I do not subscribe to any religious teachings (I was raised a Roman Catholic although I have not practiced it since around 2000) so I read this book purely out of interest. Also to get a full, broade ...more
This was absolutely fascinating. A terrifying story of one mans descent into paranoia and fear as he tries to make a documentary about the Church of Scientology. And it's all true.

I remember watching the 2007 documentary when it originally aired. And I very definitely remember what Sweeney calls his "exploding tomato" moment. Sweeney is completely honest about this: it was unprofessional, it should never have happened, he is completely repentant. But he reasons that he had been pushed to the psy
Very objective, well documented book. However you could watch the BBC documentary John Sweeney made, on which this book is based, its basically thebsame. Also it is not an easy read as it is not written as prose, but mostly as transcripts. However you do get a general idea about scientology. While i believe everyone is free to believe in whatever they want, i feel sorry for the way very vulnerable, weak people are being inducted in cults around the world, not just scientology. Not to mention peo ...more
Pretty decent as far as the "Exposé of horrible cult/institution/celebrity/murderer" genre goes, but this one is about Scientology, and thus there's even more legal trouble than usual about releasing a book like this, therein lies the hook with bait of "They could ban this" on it.

Oddly enough I've read this and enjoyed (if you could call descriptions of lives ruined and abuse enjoyable, especially if non-fiction) the book's take on how cults are structured and how they work, as well as a rundown
Rabid Readers Reviews
A representative from gave me a free copy of this audio book in exchange for my review.

The author, former BBC Investigative Reporter, John Sweeny is well known for his research of this religion. A clip from his interview with Scientology leader, Tommy Davis, went viral. Sweeney, in the clip, explodes at the religious leader and in the aftermath of the clip Sweeney said that he’d had enough of the bullying, constant scrutiny and harassment to which Davis subjected him. The clip itself
Andrew Garvey
BBC journalist John Sweeney (of the infamous Youtube clip where the loses control and yells at one of Scientology's high-ranking henchman) details his dealings with the 'religion' in a fascinating and at times, very ugly story.

While working on a 2007 Panorama documentary he is systematically harassed, followed, spied on and badgered by the Church's minions. That alone would be enough to make even the most generous reader suspicious but when added to the eyewitness accounts of former Scientologis
If you've not seen John Sweeney's documentary, or heard him speak, there will be much of interest here; if you have seen the documentary or been to a talk, then this is essentially just a recap. A good souvenir but not much more.

The real negative with this book, however, is that it seems to be an uncorrected-proof copy. There are loads of spelling, grammatical and layout errors, which suggest the need for an editor. I'm not usually a grammar pedant but you would not normally expect a journalist
Alford Wayman
An excellent book documenting the destructive side to Scientology. It is important to also view the BBC documentary that this book was based on. While some belief systems enhance the life of the believer it is also important to look under the rug, or ask the ex-wives of belief systems to fully close the circle. Sweeney does an excellent job pointing out these issues while being hassled by the church's devout, some who later leave, and then come back to Sweeney for interviews against the current ...more
Well. Pretty scathing investigative reporting into the Church of Scientology. Perticularly creepy is his reporting that he was followed by agents (I don't know what else to call them) of the church. The same guy would appear tailing him at airports wherever he flew.

As one who has studied comparative religion informally off and on for over 50 years, I found the book interesting and informative, if slightly sensationalized. Side note: Shortly after buying the book (through Amazon), I started recei
This is a tough read because it is unashamedly written from the first person of the author, a reporter from the BBC show Panorama, which results in a lot of wondering asides and odd British-ims. I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone as their first read on Scientology. The book provides a very sparse background history of the "church" and in fact seems to assume the reader knows who the main characters are. However, there is some good stuff in here, if you're willing to dig through ...more
My review: Skip it, and read Going Clear instead.

To be fair, this book was redundant to me and I didn't finish it because I've already seen John Sweeney's BBC special about Scientology and this is basically a long "making of" tale that doesn't offer any new information. This isn't a story that details "Inside the Weird World of Scientology" so much as one that's on the outside and being harassed by it. Lawrence Wright's book is much more informative, and
Matthew Tree
This is a report of the report that BBC journalist John Sweeney did for the Panoroma programme on the Church of Scientology in 2007 (with some interesting follow-ups a few years later). It's a witty, deft book written by someone who evidently found dealing with this peculiar self-help-racket-cum-religion more harrowing on occasion, than any of his innumerable assignments in some of the world's worst war zones. Fascinating though the story of what he went through is, I got the book for research r ...more
After reading this book, I come to the conclusion that Scientology is not the type of organisation I would like to get involved with.

However, this book revolves about investigative journalist John Sweeney trying to prove two things: Firstly that scientology is a cult and secondly that it is not a religion. Not only does this get repetitive, but using the same criteria that he used in this book, I think most televangelists' organisations would qualify as a cult. Secondly, one of the Sweeney's re
A lot of the content of this book has already been seen in Sweeney's Panorama docs, but the book also adds some interesting behind the scenes stuff that wasn't shown for various reasons, and adds some updates too. The basic material in the book is fascinating - if you haven't seen the Panoramas then it's worth reading just to get an insight into the bizarre world of Scientology, which Sweeney makes a compelling case for being a cult. That said, somebody really needed to properly proof-read it be ...more
Stephen Bell
Most remembered and vilified for his moment of rage ("exploding tomato" as he refers to it), BBC reporter John Sweeney lays to bare his account behind the panorama programme, that almost lead to his moment of journalistic suicide.

With ferocious vigour, a repenting John Sweeney attacks the church/cult of Scientology as a hostile, intrusive, paranoid (basically any other negative adjective you can throw at it) cult. Exposing their paranoid and obtrusive nature to anyone willing to come across the
Chris Steeden
I certainly give credit to the author for not only apologising for his unprofessional outburst in an interview with Tommy Davis of the Church of Scientology but also for when he shouts out ridiculous things to John Travolta at a premier (just embarrassing and very immature). He knows when his behaviour is not right and he does highlight this in the book.

This is an engrossing book and the Church obviously became a bit of an obsession for the author. I have no time for religion at all and I think
Paul Muteshi
Well that was some creepy encounter. It's hard to believe that such a freaking church is operating freely in the most liberal world. Is it really a church or a cult? For the cult is more appropriate. What's puzzling is that it's followers as much as they're mistreated continue to believe in it... That's so ridiculous! John Sweeney went through hell to come up with this book. Great read....
Mark Edon
Yes it is very scary.

Surprisingly perhaps, it seems to be very scary for nearly all those on the inside too, probably even the monster at the very top. Maybe a few celebrity members are still so far removed from reality they haven't twigged yet.

What is the harm? Scaring people isn't enough? Ok then how about breaking up families?

There is much more besides but read the book yourself, it might act as an antibiotic or even as a vaccine against other malign influences on you and yours.

The book it
Based on the BBC documentary that the author made, this is fascinating reading. It's terrifying and addictive all at the same time and I raced through the book because I couldn't believe half the stuff I was reading. A brilliant, thoughtful and stark expose of one of the biggest - and most harmful - cults in the world. Great stuff.
Chris Hopkinson
If you watched John Sweeney's Doco a few years back this is the more extensive story behind all that he encountered. It is particularly amazing to see some of the outcomes for the people he interviewed, some tragic while others might surprise you.
Ann James

An in-depth book giving John Sweeney's experiences of the cult...although as like him, I'd probably be called a bigot by its members for using that word and not calling it a religion!

Well written and fair, sharing the first-hand experiences of someone who had dealings with the Scientologists. At times I felt uncomfortable for the author, as his frustrations encountered with this group filtered through. After the shock and the chilling reading of the first half of the book, I became immune to the
This book tells of the interactions between BBC journalist John Seeney and the Scientologists. It details the intimidation and harrassment he suffered whilst researching the cult for an edition of Panorama in 2007. Having read the full saga, it is little wonder that he infamously exploded on camera. He is obviously still very much affected by his experiences and we get half way through the book before he can get out a coherent passage.

This is very much a personal journal of specific events. If y

Opening: Imagine two groups of people, one lot on the outside, one on the inside. The insiders believe they are defending their religion to the utmost from bigots; the outsiders believe the ‘religion’, if religion it be, is bad science fiction. The insiders believe the outsiders are brainwashed into thinking they are free when in fact they are slaves to a space alien Satan. The outsiders see a confidence trick inside a space alien cult masquerading as a religion; they believe the insiders live i
Sweeney tells the story of his investigations into Scientology for a BBC show. His self-deprecating British style is fun to read, and it's a good look at how the cult/scam handles their public relations. No revelations you couldn't read elsewhere, if you're looking for juicy gossip.

I most enjoyed his insistence that America's IRS is not the true arbiter of whether something is a religion or not, and that it's up to all of us to question Scientology's (or any group's) claims to respect. Respect
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John Sweeney is an award-winning journalist and author, currently working as an investigative journalist for the BBC's Panorama series. Before joining the BBC in 2001, Sweeney worked for twelve years at The Observer, where he covered wars and revolutions in more than sixty countries including Romania, Algeria, Iraq, Chechnya, Burundi and Bosnia.

In 1996, He was sued for criminal defamation in Fran
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