Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 5, 2011
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
Disclaimer: This is all based on what I learned in this book. I didn’t do any other readings or research, so it glosses over a lot of the details.
I have to admit, I was intrigued when I saw this book pop up in my Goodreads notifications and decided to give it a try. I didn’t really know much about Scientology other than Tom Cruise, science fiction and that the media portrays them as brainwashed and cultish, so I was definitely interested. With that said, I actually learned a lot.
Although the book claimed to be an unbiased look inside the world of Scientology, it left me wondering whether this was true. I’m not sure if Scientology is actually as bad as the author makes it sound or if she may have been a bit biased simply because she’s not part of the church. I’d be really curious to read a book by someone who was and still IS affiliated with the church, which doesn’t seem to exist. All of the people interviewed were ex-members, and although I am sure that there was some validity to what they said, I have to wonder about some of the things that were said to have happened.
There are a few things that I learned about what Scientologists believe that I didn’t know:
- They don’t worship a deity, but rather that people are inhabited by “thetans”, or souls, that are immortal and float through the years inhabiting different bodies. So, when your body dies, your “thetan” wanders around and chooses another (which is basically the same thing as reincarnation).
- They believe that most psychological issues that people have are a result of a trauma that either happened earlier in their lives or in a prior life, and so they undergo “auditing” sessions to discover what it is and free themselves (for a fee).
- I might be wrong, but I think that while Scientology is anti-psychiatry, they are not really anti-psychology and are not at all anti-doctors. The main issue is the use of medications that are used to subdue or suppress issues that they believe could be resolved through “auditing”.
- Tom Cruise is just plain special.
With all of that said, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Scientology isn’t as nuts as I thought it was. I mean, they basically believe in reincarnation, discovering and being freed from a traumatic experience in order to move forward and that we are over-medicating to deal with our problems. None of those things are specific to Scientology and are actually pretty widespread beliefs.
It’s not as difficult to see how and why people enter the vortex of Scientology. Their entire premise, that you are in control of your life and will succeed if you could only discover and handle past traumas, is a pretty generic idea. The way you get sucked in, according to the book, is in part due to the fact that you are told that the only way to discover and free yourself is to attend their auditing sessions, at their centers and pay for their services. Then, once they have your initial down payments, which can range in the thousands of dollars, they pretty much own you. And they will give you services on credit, which means that you continue to owe them, which you can either pay off with money or by working for them, which means that they own you even more.
The reason for their reputation is because of their extreme views and practices. They aren’t just anti-over medicating, they are anti-medicating, period. And it’s only the extreme zealots that are against other people medicating themselves or their children. The average Scientologist doesn’t really give a hoot about what other people are doing because they are too wrapped up in their own “thetans” and Bridge to Total Freedom to really care. Like any religion, the average person doesn’t really care how other people are living their lives so long as it doesn’t impede on theirs, but like any religion, they have their media-loving zealots who make everyone else look bad.
So, while I don’t see myself attending an auditing session anytime (ever), I was surprised at the quiet confidence that some of the current members demonstrated. It’s not so hard to see why so many people join the church. Their entire basis hinges on the fact that everyone has something wrong with them and that they can fix it, which is a pretty inviting statement when you’re down and out. I’m willing to bet that the people who actively hate them are the ones that are afraid of becoming hooked if they were to go through an auditing session (kind of like how the most homophobics show underlying homosexual tendencies).
*** I think the main issue that people have with Scientology (if you get down to the root of it), is the way it is structured. It’s so darned expensive that the rich donate a lot and the poor owe them a lot. Combined with their excessive lawsuits, cash payments for land, and intimidation tactics, their leadership is why they are so hated.
*** I’d like to clarify that I am not, will not and do not want to be a member of Scientology.
For a list of people who are Scientologists (some really surprised me), go to: list of Scientologists (I was really surprised to see that Catherine Bell, Elisabeth Moss, Leah Remini, a few actors from “That 70’s Show” and Jason Lee were on it).