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

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman
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's review
Apr 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks, religion
Read from March 08 to April 21, 2012

Scientology is a fucking cult. "Hey Rod," you say, "that's not nice, everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs and we should be tolerant of--" No, shut up. Scientology is a fucking cult. What I knew of Scientology I knew from the internet, Tom Cruise, and South Park. It seemed like just a basic dumb religion, but Inside Scientology taught me so much more.

Scientology, it seems, combines the absolute worst aspects of every religion and rolls it up into a single terrible one. Brainwashing? Check. Morality police? Check. Prohibits asking questions and thinking for yourself? Check. Makes you feel guilty about your "sins" so that the religion is the only solution? Check. Actively tries to spread the religion in insidious ways? Check. Takes all your money? Check. Prohibits young members from learning about the religion through any external mechansim? Check. Religion leaders use naive members for personal ends? Check. Denying members proper medical care, resulting in their deaths? Check. Fought to be considered a religion in order to get tax-exempt status, which it uses to increase profits? Check. HAS A BASE WITH BARBED WIRE FENCES FACING INWARD AND MOTION SENSITIVE, ALARMED EXITS TO PREVENT ESCAPE BY MEMBERS?! What in the everloving check!

If Scientology were more popular, more powerful, and more influential, it would be the worst religion in existence. I'm serious. The only thing that makes Scientology remotely acceptable is that it's not that popular, due to it's complete wackiness. How wacky is it? So wacky that even the posterboy, Tom Cruise, upon becoming OT-3 (that's where you learn about the aliens), got super pissed off, asking "What the fuck is this Science Fiction shit!?" before angrily leaving the church and starring in movie roles that the Church of Scientology did not approve of, such as the homosexual vampire Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, self-help guru T.J. Mackey in Magnolia, and Dr. Bill Harford in sexually ambiguous Eyes Wide Shut. Don't worry, not long after this the church leader at the time, David Miscavige, made it a priority to "get Cruise back" and they brought Tom back into the fold, got him to divorce Nicole Kidman, and turned him into Scientology's golden child. So how bad is Scientology? So bad that when they attempted to improve their public image by recruiting universally-beloved celebrities, rather than having their image improve the image of the church, the church instead dragged down the image of the celebrities. Scientology isn't cool, but Tom Cruise is now a joke. The star of Top Gun!

"But Rod," you say, "you're a nonbeliever, is Scientology really that much worse than other religions?" Yes. Yes it is. It's way, way, way worse. Everything that's bad about every religion, Scientology matches, and has a belief set that is, quite frankly, the most ridiculous I've ever heard. "Come on, more ridiculous than a god sending his son to die as a sacrifice of himself to himself to give his own creation for sins he assigned to them before he made them?" you ask? Yes, a billion times more ridiculous than that. I'd be hard-pressed to come up with something crazier-sounding than Scientology's core belief set, and that's only the stuff we know. The only positive thing I can say about Scientology is that they don't seem to be sexually abusing children.

When I started reading this book, I was lukewarm about Scientology. It seemed like a small group of kooks who believe in something dumb. I've revised my opinion after reading it, Scientology is a dangerous cult whose only saving grace is its unpopularity.

Inside Scientology is not actually intended as an attack piece - the author tries to be fair and even-handed, never letting opinion noticeably creep into the text. That said, it goes into excruciating detail, often far too much detail, causing many sections of the book to be quite boring. The overabundance of information paints a pretty clear portrait of Scientology, and it's not pretty.

I now know enough to convince pretty much anyone to hate Scientology. I can tell my anti-authoritarian nonbeliever friends about how the church uses litigation to silence opponents and encourages young Scientologists to snitch on their friends that start to question their faith, which results in punishment for the skeptical. I can tell my right-wing religious in-laws about how they refuse to do any kind of sex education for people who go to school within the church, then force girls to get abortions under threat of excommunication. Tell me values you hold dear, and I'll tell you how Scientology is an assault on them. Honestly, I think the only people who could read this book and not come out the other side loathing Scientology are Scientologists.

Speaking of Scientologists, on the off chance there's a Scientologist reading this review, my guess is that you have a lot to object to. You'll say the book's not accurate, or it doesn't reflect "true" Scientology. Well guess what - you don't get to say that. Why? Because other religions are open - their standard texts are available to anyone who wishes to read them, and the doors of their churches are generally open to all. Scientology is veiled in secrecy, the inner-workings of its organization a complete mystery to the outside world, intentionally so. Scientology's tenets are codified in "tech" that members must pay increasing amounts to read, only some of which have leaked onto the internet. In short, Scientology has made sure that virtually no information about Scientology can make it into my hands, so you don't get to complain if the first and only detailed book on the religion happens to be one that doesn't present Scientology favorably. It's the only source of information on Scientology I have, it's well-researched by Janet Reitman using multiple interviews and testimonies from ex-Scientologists, and it seems consistent with what little I've garnered about Scientology from other sources. For all intents and purposes, it seems safe to assume it is true. If you think otherwise, you're just going to have to refute it.

Inside Scientology is a good, if occasionally tedious read, I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the religion. But if you're looking for a book that will simply make you more able to understand an exotic religion, this isn't the book. Inside Scientology is not a book to broaden your horizons - it will make you actively dislike the faith.

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