Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion
I actually read this a couple of months ago and loved it! I am fascinated by the world of Scientology and how bizarre it is. Janet Reitman is a journalist and has spent time in Iraq and other war torn areas.
The first section of the book, for me, was the most interesting because I had already heard all of the usual stuff about the "church" like the alien thing, the thetan thing, the billion year contract, etc. The first chapter was all about the history of L. Ron Hubbard. Let me tell you, once you read his back story, you will never EVER be able to look at Scientology the same again. The guy was a top rate wanna be star, who was also a compulsive liar about his life story. Or maybe you could call him a con artist. Either way, his rise to fame is very engrossing, and you can see how systematically he built his empire and how he hooked his followers. How anyone STILL manages to get recruited by the "church" is beyond me.
A few years out of curiosity I went into the only Western Canadian church in Edmonton. Basically it was in a grungy industrial area, and the front of the church looked like a parts shop. But when you enter, the first thing you see is a front lobby, kind of, full of books for sale about the "church" and a desk on one side. Also, in the lobby is a HUGE floor to ceiling portrait of John Travolta and his wife, and beside that a massive bust of Hubbard.
I was immediately greeted by a lady in her 50's, and told her I was curious what Scientology was all about. So she gave me a tour. I had my 2 year old with me, and so she tagged along. We walked down a long hallway and came into the room where they have their church services. It looked kind of like any other church in a building, chairs in a semi circle, and at the front was a podium and behind that on the wall was a large "cross", you know the Scientology symbol thing? And on the left hand side, big shocker, another massive bust of Hubbard. And on the wall at the back a huge painting portrait of the fearless leader. She told me the church services were on Sundays, and I asked if I could bring my daughter, and she looked almost shocked and said, "Oh no. We have daycare for the children." And my immediate thought was, why are children not allowed to the services? What are they talking about and preaching in this creepy place??
We then went back to the front of the building where she explained about the lectures and how when people take courses they listen to audio recordings in these little booths. She said that all recordings that people listen to MUST BE ORIGINAL recordings of L. Ron himself teaching. One of the first rules of a cult is that ALL information must come directly from the leader himself, this is how he keeps absolute control of his followers. So my second alarm bell went off. (the first being the children not being allowed). She then explained auditing to me and hooked me up to the e-reader. I held these two metal cylinders, one in each hand, and there was an indicator there that moved depending on how stressed I felt. Can anyone say "bio feedback machine"? But whatever, it is an E-READER apparently. She asked me my name, and where I lived, and the needle barely moved. Then she firmly pinched the back of my hand. The needle moved quite bit. Then without touching me she asked me to recall exactly what the pinch felt like, "Recall the pinch" she said. And if you watch any footage of an auditor working, they say the exact same thing. And the needle moved the same, quite a bit! Which was pretty cool. Then she asked me to recall the pinch again, and it moved a little less. She asked me about 5 times to recall the pinch until the needle did not move at all. So basically this is what they do with all of your traumatic or intensely emotional memories. You go over the event again and again until you have no reaction whatsoever. Hello... BRAIN WASHING!
She then proceeded to try to sell me auditing sessions at $1200 a piece, she said I would need about 6 of them. This was in 2000. And then she tried to sell me a bunch of books.
So, I can say, that it is not really so much a religion as it is a BUSINESS. And this is what this book essentially says over and over.
She managed to get interviews with your usual suspects such as Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, who at one time were extremely high ranking Scientologists and Mike Rinder was in two separate documentaries by a BBC journalist. The first one, he was part of the team that was following the journalist around and being quite horrible. And by the time the second documentary rolled around, he had left the church and was spilling all of its secrets, as well as shedding light on some of the behaviour of he and Tommy Davis during the original documentary. FASCINATING!
It is an amazing look into this bizarre world, and very frustrating to imagine the power that this small group has, and how celebrities who are seemingly intelligent are involved hook line and sinker.
A MUST READ for anyone interested in the inner workings of Scientology.
Here is a link to the ENTIRE second BBC documentary, which is awesome, because it shows footage from the earlier one with Mike Rinder and then interviews with him after he leaves the church and can shed light on some of the weird stuff that went on during the making of the first one.