A deep look into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uncovers the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
... 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.