Wednesday, May 28, 2014

POS on the Page - Going Clear

I have never used my blog to discuss religion before, but it is something that I enjoy studying in my spare time. One religion I was always curious about was Scientology, not from a standpoint of wanting to join that faith, but from the standpoint of wanting to know how and why a science-fiction author was able to create a religion, a religion that many view as either a) a cult or b) a scam. One of my earliest exposures to Scientology was the epic South Park episode, Trapped in the Closet. It did such a great job skewering the religion that it made me want to know more. Then along came this book, and I strongly encourage everyone who is curious about Scientology to read it. One of the best endorsements for this book is that the Church of Scientology is pissed off that it got written.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. 2013, 448 pages (hardcover)

Lawrence Wright is a respected journalist, and one of his prior books on the origins of Al-Qaeda won the Pulitzer prize for nonfiction. Going Clear started as an article for The New Yorker magazine, from his interviews with former Scientologist and Hollywood director Paul Haggis. For the book, Wright expanded the scope to delve deep into both the history of the faith's enigmatic founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the faith that he created. The book comes about from interviews with over 200 current and former Scientologists, and it contains some pretty explosive allegations of abuse within the church, some of which have played out in courtrooms around the world.

Reading through this book, I was blown away by the scams that L. Ron Hubbard pulled off as he built his faith, preying on the weak and insecure for money and status to build his cult. He was a con artist and liar with a P.T. Barnum level of hucksterism. Questionable labor practices, child abuse, sexual impropriety, financial scams, cutting members off from their families (just like a cult), and many more allegations get revealed in all their sordid details. It also reveals some of the core teachings of the church, teachings that are usually only presented to those that have given hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, to the church (although you can find them online now thanks to Google). There are teachings that show the clear sci-fi origins of the faith, including their belief that aliens are real and that all humans are infected with alien souls that cause us problems in our lives. Reading this book leaves you wondering how anyone could possibly believe in this religion, much less think it is a religion at all. As Paul Haggis says: "I was in a cult for thirty four years. Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't."

For a taste of what the book covers, here is a link to the original The New Yorker article that started it all, based on Wright's interviews of Haggis. I strongly encourage you to check it out. LINK  Overall, if you've ever wondered how a cult can flourish in this society, or are just looking for an interesting read, I encourage you to check out Going Clear. You'll never look at John Travolta or Tom Cruise the same way again.

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