Going Clear Book Summary - Going Clear Book explained in key points
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Going Clear summary

Lawrence Wright

Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

4.2 (29 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright is an investigative non-fiction book that takes a deep dive into the Church of Scientology and its history, theology, and inner workings, detailing the experiences of former members and exposing the scandalous practices of the controversial organization.

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    Going Clear
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    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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    What is Going Clear about?

    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.

    Going Clear Review

    Going Clear (2013) by Lawrence Wright is an eye-opening exploration into the beliefs, practices, and controversies surrounding Scientology. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a deep dive into the history and inner workings of Scientology, revealing shocking and fascinating aspects that keep readers engrossed.
    • Provides a balanced perspective by incorporating interviews with current and former members, as well as extensive research, ensuring a comprehensive understanding.
    • Unveils the personal stories of individuals who have left the organization, shedding light on the nature of control and indoctrination within Scientology.

    Best quote from Going Clear

    [Psychiatry was] the sole source of decline in this universe. - L. Ron Hubbard

    —Lawrence Wright
    example alt text

    Who should read Going Clear?

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

    About the Author

    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 FAQs 

    What is the main message of Going Clear?

    Discover the shocking truth behind Scientology and its powerful hold on its members.

    How long does it take to read Going Clear?

    The reading time for Going Clear can vary. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Going Clear a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Going Clear is worth reading for its eye-opening exploration of Scientology and its impact on individuals' lives.

    Who is the author of Going Clear?

    Going Clear is written by Lawrence Wright.

    What to read after Going Clear?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Going Clear, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Trojan Women by Euripides
    • Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch