lifetime book-lover who writes about - what else? - a variety of books.
i've never been particularly interested in scientology. when it does come to mind, i think of tom cruise and that hilarious south park episode. i grew up a jehovah's witness, so i'm fairly familiar with how unorthodox religions are often ridiculed by people who don't understand the basic tenants of the religion to begin with. i'm not a practicing jehovah's witness (or a practicing anything, for that matter), but i reserve my scorn for people who try to force their religious beliefs on others, rather than for people who believe things that might seem strange or abnormal to me. so if you tell me you believe in Xenu and thetans and the power of e-meters, i'm likely to think, "well that's kinda strange, but more importantly, is L. Ron Hubbard's Battlestar Galactica really worth reading?"
but i read in a few places that Going Clear practically read like a nonfiction horror story. and the moderators at the end of this year's Tournament of Books remarked upon how, if they'd had a similar contest for nonfiction, this would've made the list. apparently some strange things happen in this history and examination of scientology. so i decided to give it a read.
and a pretty good read it was. it was fascinating, to say the least. the first half of the book deals largely with Hubbard and his founding of the Church of Scientology; the second half with the more recent activities of the church, and it's dealings with celebrities like tom cruise, john travolta, and paul haggis. i must say that i enjoyed the first half the most. how and why a man with hubbard's background, education, and abilities founds a major church is awfully engrossing.
the first half also introduces a running theme, which is the corrupting influence of being enamored with your own ideas and the power it can bring over people who believe in those ideas wholeheartedly. i think the quote i'm looking for is "absolute power corrupts absolutely." (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton). it's a tale as old as time, and scientology's founder and current leader David Miscavage have no monopoly on the despicable and just plain bonkers things people do when they have the power to carry out their most ridiculous and horrifying whims. it's sad when these whims destroy people's lives, but it's not new.
i can't vouch for the veracity of the facts in this book, but wright strikes me as a journalist with integrity who sincerely tries to uncover the truth of what really happens in the church. but even if you read it as complete fiction, it'll still be a damned eye-brow raising, engrossing read (i almost gave myself a headache a few times), because the consensus is that this is one crazy book. and they're right - it is.