Lawrence Wright’s most famous work is The Looming Tower, a Pulitzer Prize winning & comprehensive history of Al-Qaeda leading up to 9/11. He’s now dedicated a book to an in-depth exploration of Scientology. It would be interesting to know which one he thinks is freakier. Anyway, I’ve always given Scientology a pass on their beliefs being weird or strange; I believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, after all, but it’s always seemed strange to me the efforts the Church of Scientology has gone toward keeping its central doctrines secret. I mean, you can go into any Christian church in the country and they’ll tell you flat out that they believe in the virgin birth, for example. It seems a strange dishonesty for a religion to have. But in this book Wright makes a compelling argument that the Church of Scientology is a dangerous & frightening organization with a pernicious and deadly effect on the world. Wright goes into great detail on the life of L. Ron Hubbard and the development of the doctrines of Scientology; then he studies the church as it relates to the world around it through courting celebrities, harassing critics, torturing dissidents and consolidating political and social power under the iron handed rule of Hubbard’s successor, David Miscavige. And, finally, he looks at the experiences that have led many to escape the Church, at great risk to their very lives, and he gives the Church the chance to speak it’s side of the story through a genuinely compelling spokesman, Anne Archer’s son Tommy Davis, himself a fascinating individual. It’s a book that hits every emotion in the spectrum; sometimes, it’s hilarious; other times, it’s genuinely horrifying; occasionally, as in one lengthy section dealing with the imprisonment and attempted escape of one of John Travolta’s celebrity handlers, it’s almost unbearably suspenseful; it’s often jaw-dropping and shocking, as in a lengthy section about Hubbard’s time spent as part of an occult group dedicated to impregnating an acolyte with the anti-christ; it’s routinely angering and frustrating. Anyway, I could go on and on. All I can say is that this really is a must read book; it’s densely written, but it’s as page-turning and engaging as a great novel – I found myself picking it up every time I had even a two minute window with nothing to do. It’s an absolute masterpiece. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – masterful expose of Scientology is riveting entertainment, deeply disturbing and wonderfully written; a masterpiece of reporting and story-telling. 4 stars.