peter's Reviews > Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman
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's review
Aug 12, 2011

really liked it
Read from August 11 to 12, 2011

The author herself frequently voices the caveat that when a religion is as secretive as defensive as Scientology, it is incredibly difficult to write objectively about it. That said, Reitman does an admirable job of steering clear of the histrionics of some critics and the head-in-the-sand defensiveness of some members of the church. Ultimately, her assertion that Scientology is something of a fundamentalist faith seems pretty much on point. I have to admit that, as a theologian myself, the most frustrating aspects of reading about Scientology are the paucity of good academic sources and the inability to study source texts from the outside. While Reitman cannot remedy the latter and admits to not attempting to be the former, this is nonetheless about as good as one can hope to find. It is, in short, enough to satisfy curiosity but not enough to start a large-scale academic endeavor.

As to the contents within, many doctrinal matters are somewhat familiar territory, especially in light of Operation Clambake and the South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet." What has not been made as public is the level of near sociopathic behavior alleged against the founder and current leader of this church. Neither Hubbard nor Miscavidge come through this tale with even a tarnished halo. I can presently think mainly of Jay Bakker (the son of Jim and Tammy Faye) and his still-faithful claim that religion kills. Indeed, it is difficult to separate something like a "religious truth" from the cult of personality which seems to have been the genesis of Scientology. Reitman's sensitivity to her interviewees accomplishes this, however. For the first time, we have a portrait of how this admittedly secretive church functions both for its celebrity believers and for the rank and file. The difference is galling at times and recalls nothing more enlightened than the Jim Crow era of American history.

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Reading Progress

08/11/2011 page 67
14.0% 1 comment
08/11/2011 page 146
31.0% "So far, this book marks a new entry in the study of Scientology: reportorial tone instead of breathless hysteria or mindless apologia. Even with that said, Scientology isn't coming out too rosy so far."
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