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Going Clear

Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

By Lawrence Wright
16-minute read
Audio available
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Going Clear offers a rare glimpse into the secret history and beliefs of Scientology as well as the conflicted biography of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. It also details some of the Church’s darker qualities: a tooth and nail method of managing criticism and systematic approach to celebrity recruitment.

  • Anyone who’s interested in the history of Scientology
  • Anyone who wants tips on how to start his or her own successful religion

Lawrence Wright is an author and screenwriter, as well as a staff writer of the New Yorker and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written a number of plays and critically acclaimed books, including The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.

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Going Clear

Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

By Lawrence Wright
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Synopsis

Going Clear offers a rare glimpse into the secret history and beliefs of Scientology as well as the conflicted biography of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. It also details some of the Church’s darker qualities: a tooth and nail method of managing criticism and systematic approach to celebrity recruitment.

Key idea 1 of 10

Scientology considers itself to be a scientific kind of religion.

Unofficially, the organization claims eight million members worldwide. In the United States, however, only about 25,000 people label themselves Scientologists.

In truth, it’s hard to know how many there are. Without baptismal records or other ritual professions of faith, estimations on membership become difficult.

This brings us to a bigger question: is Scientology a religion at all? This question, like the one above, will prove difficult to answer:

The US government officially granted Scientology religious status in 1957, three years after the organization was founded. Only ten years later, however, the IRS ruled that Scientology was, in fact, not a religion, but rather a commercial enterprise that existed to enrich its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Unsatisfied with this outcome, in 1977, the Church enlisted experts on religious movements to affirm the religious nature of Scientology.

Their main expert, Frank Flinn, testified that, like other religions, Scientology possesses a system of beliefs spiritual in nature, a set of behavioral norms as well as rites and ceremonies. What’s more, Scientology attributes extraordinary powers to their founder, such as his visions of a supernatural world, analogous to those of Jesus, Muhammad or Abraham.

So, wouldn’t Scientology, then, fulfill the defining criteria for a religious organization? At the time, the US government disagreed, and rejected the Church’s appeal.

In 1993, the tides turned when Scientology regained tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.

Paradoxically, Scientology also claims to be based on science, purporting that Hubbard developed his doctrines through stringent scientific research.

Recruits are told that they will necessarily come to share Scientology’s worldviews, accepting, for example, the belief in immortality, through a process of scientific realization.

In his book Dianetics, which serves as a central tenet of Scientology’s belief system, Hubbard calls his self-help method an engineering science.

Scientologists’ insistence that their beliefs are founded in science have not gone unopposed, especially from psychiatry, which is fitting, considering Hubbard scorned and mistrusted psychiatry for most of his life.

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