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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  40,800 ratings  ·  4,469 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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Jenny Oh yes. If you don't find Hubbard and Miscavige terrifying and repulsive, I think you're reading this book wrong. This sh*t is scary. …moreOh yes. If you don't find Hubbard and Miscavige terrifying and repulsive, I think you're reading this book wrong. This sh*t is scary. (less)
Mark Filiatreau I would say the "are said to" is strongly implied by the context--the context of the entire book, which covers members' beliefs. If the phrase were re…moreI would say the "are said to" is strongly implied by the context--the context of the entire book, which covers members' beliefs. If the phrase were required here it would be required throughout and bog down the book. (less)

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Feb 25, 2013 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
Bill Kerwin
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, history
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
Jan 22, 2013 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* that i
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
Apr 10, 2015 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
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
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, religion, non-fiction
I can't lie- I fell in love with Jesus at a young age....

I was about 6 years old and my parents took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar. That was about the extent of my religious education.

I was conflicted to who was more dreamy...Jesus...or Judas????

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In the end Jesus won out- not because of his morals... as a 6 year old I was attracted to both- but I am afraid I was just more attracted to Jesus...I mean seriously do you want to align yourself with the troubled man who hung himself from a tree- or
Jan 19, 2013 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
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, cult, 2015
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
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Holy shit!

Footnote: This book would be a fraction of the size without all of the legal disclaimers and denials from Tom Cruise’s lawyers and from the Church of Scientology. Maybe just a blanket statement at the beginning would’ve sufficed?!
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, aere-perennius
"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 polite
Mariah Roze
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Right now I am reading every book I can about Scientology and about people escaping the religion. I find it super fascinating and have been learning so much! When I saw this book on Overdrive I had to listen to it. However, compared to most book about Scientology, I found this book to be kind of boring. I thought it had interesting material but the author dragged it out too long.

The book talked about the inner workings of the Church of Scientology. He starts all the way with its origins by the s
Jan 22, 2013 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.
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 r
Nancy Oakes
Apr 09, 2013 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
Heidi Denver
Feb 05, 2013 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 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
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wright’s portrait of L. Ron Hubbard shows a man best described as “malignantly narcissistic”. His creations, Dianetics and Scientology, were designed to make him rich and famous. He used his tremendous charisma for his own personal glory with no concern for who was hurt. In his frequent tantrums and paranoia, he would do everything and anything to destroy his perceived enemies. His policy was never to admit fault and always attack the attacker. This modus operandi would persist in Scientology lo ...more
Julie Ehlers
Recently I reviewed Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion and complained that the book had way too much detail, making it feel like homework. After reading Going Clear, I feel a bit like taking that back. This book, in my opinion, was a little short on detail, particularly about some of scientology's illicit behaviors around the FBI and IRS. I ended up really glad I'd already gotten that information from Reitman's book.

What this book did have, obvious
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america
"If it's not true for you, it isn't true." - L. Ron Hubbard

Lawrence Wright became a Pulitzer Prize winning author for his 2006 'Looming Tower' about Al-Qaeda, before this 2013 book was begun. Many interviews were done and much was researched here as well. Previously he wrote about the Amish and studied the Jonestown Massacre. He was a journalist for Rolling Stone and later the New Yorker for forty years. My interests in Scientology are comparitive religion, history and politics. The Taiping, FDL
Mar 08, 2013 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
Apr 14, 2014 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
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this, the most renowned and frequently referenced examination of Scientology, Lawrence Wright dissects the disturbing legacy of L. Ron Hubbard.

The project began as almost all of them do, through the lens of journalistic enterprise. Originally intended as an investigative piece for The New Yorker, Wright's sources began to multiply, their stories growing increasingly fraught; the revelations coming in hot and hard - not from disgruntled lower-level functionaries but leaders of the upper echelo
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
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it

Fuck L. Ron Hubbard, and fuck all his clones...

- Tool, "Aenema"

Well...what can I say? Like the Russian revolution, except less bloody and more farcical? L. Ron Hubbard at least, as the founder of Scientology, can certainly fill the role of Lenin. Hubbard inspires both pity and disgust- so clearly trying to heal the serious mental problems he (on some level) must have known he had, yet also malevolent and dangerous. As a friend of mine has said of Donald Trump, he makes you feel, over the course
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook
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
Joy D
One of my friends escaped from a Scientology “cult” (her term) when she was a teen. She has told me about her experiences, and I wanted to find out more about the organization.

This book is a combination history, biography, and exposé. It is an in-depth examination of the beliefs, terminology, structure, wealth, celebrity liaisons, allegations, and controversies. Based on interviews, the author relates experiences of people who have left the organization, which, of course, Scientology’s leadersh
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
Bryan Alkire
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Ok book. This book expanded my knowledge of this religion, or at least brought me up to speed on more current events involving said religion. Much of the first part of the book, the origins and biography of Hubbard were familiar to me. The Hollywood and current events of the religion were new information to me. Personally, I don’t think Scientology is really a religion or cult for that matter. It seems to really a for-profit self-help group for people who can afford its product and services. I e ...more
Feb 27, 2015 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. ...more
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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

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
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“Religion is always an irrational enterprise, no matter how ennobling it may be to the human spirit.” 19 likes
“He could easily invent an elaborate, plausible universe. But it is one thing to make that universe believable, and another to believe it. That is the difference between art and religion.” 6 likes
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