Adam Yoshida's Reviews > Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
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Jan 21, 2013

it was amazing
Read in January, 2013

"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 enough, from an objective point of view, that L. Ron Hubbard - and his successor as head of the Church, David Miscavige - have spent much of their lives verging upon the edge of madness. Yet, somehow, despite that they have managed to create for themselves - right in the heart of America - a sort of lunatic court whose workings and foibles would be recognizable even to the Egyptian Pharaohs of old. More to the point - a point that Wright himself eventually makes but which struck me early - is how much the story of Hubbard and Miscavige parallel those of the founders of other major religions (mostly Islam and Mormonism) whose births were recent enough to leave us with fairly clear records of the early days of their faiths.

On one hand, it's more or less impossible not to abhor the cruelty with which the leaders of the Church have consistently behaved. On the other, it's difficult not to find some level of admiration for their brazen behaviour.

I can't recommend this book too strongly.
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