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

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman
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Aug 22, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction-general
Read in August, 2011

Reitman, Janet. INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. (2011). ****.
The author is an investigative reporter, and this book is an expansion of an article she first wrote for Rolling Stone in 2007 – for which she received several awards. I first learned of the book through an interview of the author on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The “religion” was founded by L. (Lafayette) Ron Hubbard, a man of varied background and pursuits, most notable that of a writer for the pulps. All indications are that he was a brilliant individual and a highly charismatic one. His first success ws the publication and subsequent promotion of “Dianetics,” a self-help approach to solving life’s problems that form the basis of this subsequent religion. The “church” was officially founded in 1954, and its membership has expanded significantly since that time. Its management model is based on both the Catholic Church, where Hubbard was seen and treated like the Pope, and MacDonald’s, where their income model has been adapted to fit the church’s needs. The first real success of this religion was to have the government recognize it as a true religion under the tax laws, hence providing it with tax-exempt status. The church makes its money – quite a lot of it if you believe the numbers flying around out there – by charging its members for courses that provide education on the basics of the religion. The cost of these courses starts out small, but soon ramps up to where member pay up to $10,000 for a series of one-on-one session. Much like the Boy Scouts, members slowly climb the ladder of awareness by completing these courses in a prescribed manner. With its tax exempt status, the principal source of the church’s wealth is – next to course fees – property. No actual figure is given, but estimates place the church’s worth at billions of dollars in property and rental incomes throughout the world. Hubbard initially made money for the church through the sale of his books. The “Dianetics” book was a run-away best seller and a draw to people with problems that they didn’t know how to solve. He also began a series of science fiction novels that embodied the teaching of his nascent religion which also brought in significant monies. After Hubbard died, the leadership of the church passed to David Miscavige, a protege of Hubbard’s, who ran the organization with an iron hand, and whose imprint on the church has turned it into the controversial religion that it now is. A close look at the Church of Scientology leads observers to make comparisons to other cult organizations and top-down fascist organizations. Many of its marketing schemes to increase membership and income have evolved over time through trial and error, like, for instance, its reliance on celebrities to promote the faith. You learn that, among many others, John Travolta, Priscilla Presley and Tom Cruise are members of the church and are staunch advocates of its teachings – along with generous donators of cash for its program needs. As the author states: “Scientology, a fundamentally narcissistic philosophy that demonizes doubt and insecurity as products of the “reactive mind,” is a belief system tailor-made for actors.” The author further states: “Secrecy and control are hallmarks of the Church of Scientoloty. Writing a book about such an organization thus poses myriad chalenges to a journalist trying to construct a truthful narrative. Though the early history of Scientology has been documented, virtually credible, unbiased books, scholarly or popular, have been written about the past twenty-five years of church history. Also very few documents pertaining to this period have surfaced publicly because David Miscavige’s orders and directives are almost always kept confidential, circulated only to officials at the International Base.” In spite of this, the author has managed to put together a compelling story of the Church meaningful to the general reader. Recommended.
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