... considerably more than a fleshed-out magazine piece, told in [the ] high style, through the methodical accretion of social detail and vivid commentary in the voices of the protagonists. Abstruse ideas are explained matter-of-factly ... quite often something other than fascinating. Few of the people who read the book will likely need disillusioning (the estimation of L. Ron Hubbard could hardly be any lower in polite circles). The claims about Tom Cruise's beliefs and behavior are not especially surprising (the surprise is that, in spite of them, he is still a movie star). Mr. Wright doesn't oversell his book as a tale of the rich and famous or an exposé of an operation poised to take over Hollywood. Instead, he leaves the impression that Scientology, for all its power, for all the benefits that it claims to have rendered to people around the world, is a charmless system of belief and a small-time organization made large through celebrity and money. It isn't fascinating reading, but it is a feat of reporting. The story of Scientology is the great white whale of investigative journalism about religion ... sometimes hard going on account of its subject matter. But it is an utterly necessary story even so ... The surprise isn't that Mr. Wright presents Scientology as a perplexing and alarming organization. The surprise is that he has managed to tell its story at all.
The many endnotes in Lawrence Wright’s book on the church, Going Clear, are the first clue that this author is not fooling around ... brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology — its history, its theology, its hierarchy — and the result is a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction ... Wright does not muck up his story with the smarmy outrage that characterizes so much writing about religion. He merely lets the details speak for themselves ... That Cruise does not get more than a passing mention until halfway through the book is a testament to Wright’s even-handed treatment of his sensational material. But when he does, it’s worth the wait.
Immersed in this book, the reader is drawn along by tantalizing revelations while simultaneously exhausted, longing for escape from its cloistered world—mirroring the accounts of many former Scientologists on the record, here ... Readers will have to decide whether to believe the Pulitzer-winning author’s carefully sourced reporting, or the church’s rebuttals ... offers a fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways.
Wright is a meticulous researcher and a balanced writer: the perfect combination for tackling complex topics fraught with moral angst ... Wright covers this drama with a journalist’s detachment, careful to relate even the most dramatic events in a cool tone ... Wright belongs to a generation of reporters who take exceptional care not to reveal their personal opinions on their subject matter, at least not within the confines of a book or article. In that vein, he’s also unwilling to speculate when the evidence simply isn’t there, and as a result, parts of his narrative simply drop into a void: characters disappear, deaths go unexplained and motivations become murky. As someone who knew little about Scientology heading into the book, I found those loose ends somewhat frustrating; there’s a part of us that always hungers for the complete story. But there’s still more than enough meat here to chew over for quite some time ... a fascinating read.
That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology. Every deceptive comparison with Mormonism and other religions is given a respectful hearing. Every ludicrous bit of church dogma is served up deadpan. This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful ... only once in 430 pages filled with lurid anecdotes did my skeptical antennas start to twitch ... Lawrence Wright is so deeply into his material, and there is so much of it, that he sometimes doesn’t realize when he’s left the reader behind. What is OT V status again? (It’s the fifth level of ascent for a thetan, achieved by taking expensive courses.) Which wife of L. Ron Hubbard are we talking about here? ... But don’t be deterred. Going Clear is essential reading for thetans of all lifetimes.
The book is diligently researched, calmly expository, and full of fascinating side-stories (most readers will be unaware of Hubbard's fondness for the teachings of English occultist Aleister Crowley or his influence on the writings of William Burroughs) ... Most batty detail? Hubbard's chronically awful thousand-page dystopia Battlefield Earth turns out to be Mitt Romney's favourite novel.
Wright’s admiration for Hubbard’s ingenuity, insight, and force of personality is evident throughout Going Clear, even as he systematically debunks seemingly every aspect of Hubbard’s personal mythology, from his war record to his academic qualifications ... In Wright’s telling, Miscavige led Scientology into a new golden age of abuse, abduction, and intimidation, as both rank-and-file membership and upper-church management were subject to Miscavige’s whims; those who displeased him wound up in brutal work camps as part of the sect’s Rehabilitation Project Force. His cruelty and immaturity are so over-the-top that they border on comic, littering Going Clear with pitch-black comedy moments that are too depressing to be funny ... Sometimes Wright’s prosecutorial zeal gets the best of him. He continues to obsess about the lush, decadent details of Cruise and Miscavige’s personal fortunes long after establishing the financial gulf between church bigwigs and non-celebrity members. Wright lingers on brand names and luxury items so obsessively that at times, he threatens to turn into Bret Easton Ellis, lovingly cataloguing the brands of the Reagan era in American Psycho. His case against Scientology is strong enough that he doesn’t have to keep piling on: The facts speak for themselves ... In accessible, straightforward prose that does a fine job of rendering Scientology’s sometimes convoluted core concepts understandable, Wright captures its horrors and abuses, but also the seductive glamour ... In spite of its occasional excesses and redundancies, Going Clear is simultaneously a fearless, compelling, exhaustive work of muckraking journalism and a masterpiece of storytelling. It’s a ripping yarn about ego, money, abuse, faith, and the corrupting nature of power when wielded by the wrong people. It’s as lurid, pulpy, and preposterous-seeming as anything Hubbard or Haggis ever wrote, but it’s much better, because it has the benefit of being true.
... much more than a celebrity tell-all...Wright is a gifted writer whose deep and thorough reporting won him the Pulitzer Prize...Going Clear doesn’t simply recast stories about celebrities and Scientology, but takes us inside the organization via interviews with former church members and through research that most notably includes the writings of Hubbard ... If you have been intrigued by the exploits of Cruise, Travolta and other celebrities with Scientology ties, or have ever wondered what the religion is all about, then Going Clear is a must-read. Wright treats the subject with intelligence, objectivity and careful research, making it the definitive book on the history and practice of Scientology.
... a true horror story, the most comprehensive among a number of books published on the subject in the past few years, many of them personal accounts by people who have managed to escape or were evicted from the clutches of a group they came to feel was destroying them ... Wright’s book is a tribute to fact-checkers as well as to his personal courage ... Wright’s conclusions are cautious, but leave us with the central question: How far should government go to protect people who voluntarily involve themselves in harmful practices?
Wright's account of the church's history and struggles is helpful, admirably fair-minded and, at times, absorbing ... The book's most intriguing aspect, though, is not its treatment of Scientology, in particular, but its raising of general questions about the nature of faith and reason and the role of religion in American life ... strongly suggests that there is no way to brand some religions as real or legitimate while excluding others.
Wright is scrupulous and straight-faced in describing the self-help philosophy ... Much of this is hard to believe, and Wright has armed himself with detailed source notes and regular footnotes to the effect that the church or Tom Cruise's lawyers 'deny this ever happened' ... so crammed with unpleasant people and degrading stories, and so helplessly clotted with Scientology jargon and acronyms, that it's not easy reading. Nothing dispels the feeling that Scientology was a horror and farce that was dwindling in advance of this book.
Wright exposes the church’s many sins: covert espionage, psychological torment, threatened blackmail using confidential information from auditing sessions and constant physical assaults on members by tyrannical current leader David Miscavage. The author is also interested in something deeper: If it's all a con, why is everyone involved (especially the late Hubbard) so deeply invested in its beliefs? Wright doesn't go out of his way to exaggerate the excesses of Scientology; each page delivers startling facts that need no elaboration ... A patient, wholly compelling investigation into a paranoid 'religion' and the faithful held in its sweaty grip.
offers—in persuasive, albeit sometimes mind-numbing, detail—an eye-opening short biography of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a long-form journalism presentation of the creature Hubbard birthed: a self-help system complete with bizarre cosmology, celebrity sex appeal, lawyers, consistent allegations of physical abuse, and expensive answers for spiritual consumers. Wright capably sows his thorough reportage into ground broken by Janet Reitman (Inside Scientology, 2011). He poses larger questions about the nature of belief, but can only lay groundwork because he has to fight to establish facts, given the secrecy and controversy surrounding Scientology, and his eyewitnesses are necessarily disenchanted and therefore adversarial. While Wright’s brave reporting offers an essential reality test, an analysis of why this sci-fi and faith brew quenches a quasi-religious thirst in its followers is still needed.