Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 17 hours, 27 minutes
Narrated by: Morton Sellers
Source: Purchased

The Book
From the publisher:

Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige — tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

My Thoughts
I’m oddly fascinated with Scientology and Scientologists. I think if Scientologists weren’t so secretive about things I probably wouldn’t care. I’ve been intrigued by the whole history, religion and organization for years. Last year I listened to Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and found it fascinating.

This book is fairly similar to Inside Scientology (which I listened to last year) and covers a lot of the same ground so there wasn’t a lot of new information.

One thing I liked about this book is that interspersed throughout Wright’s examination of Scientology’s history is the story of one man and his experience with the church. The book opens with Paul Haggis meeting a scientologist in his hometown of London, Ontario. That meeting led to a 35 year active membership in the church.

However this is not just Paul Haggis’s story. Along with following Haggis’s life and eventual break with the church Wright also tells the story of the church and it’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. He explores the nature of religion and the question of whether Scientology is a religion or not.

Wright talked to many former members of the church in researching this book. What I find interesting is that many of them still use some of the techniques of Scientology while rejecting the official church organization. I think much of this is related to David Miscavige, who took over the church (in a bit of a coup) when Hubbard died.

In my opinion, L. Ron Hubbard may have been a complete whack job but his successor David Miscavige is disturbingly power hungry. Some of the stories of the way he has treated the people supposedly in is inner circle are downright strange.

The book is a little dry in places and sometimes rambles a bit but it’s quite interesting, a little disturbing and worth reading. There is a video documentary available based on this book which is both good and disturbing.

Morton Sellers does an adequate job of narrating the book. He was a little too slow for me though but speeding up the playback made it too fast.

Both this book and Inside Scientology are interesting explorations of the church and it’s history. They do cover a lot of the same ground however so I’d recommend reading one or the other but not necessarily both.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the narration