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Going Clear by Lawrence Wright **** (of 5)

scientologyIt took great courage to write this book.  Anyone that has ever crossed the Church of Scientology has, pursuant to church ideology, been hounded by goons, lawsuits (enough to bankrupt nearly anyone), private investigators, and vicious media attacks.  Lawrence Wright had to know it was coming when he started the book, but then again he did win the Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of Al Qaeda.  There are three major components to Going Clear.  The first is a thorough biography of its founder L. Ron Hubbard and there is no escaping the conclusion that the man was a lying, delusional, paranoid schizophrenic.  Part 2 describes the Church of Scientology’s doctrines as created by Hubbard and embodied by long-time leader David Miscavige.  Wright focuses much of his attention on the upper echelons of the Church — the Sea Org — and its alleged human rights abuses of its parishioners: kidnapping, isolation, physical and mental subjugation.  The other area of interest for both Wright and the Church is its courtship of celebrities like Kirstie Allie, John Travolta, and Tom Cruise.  Part 3 is a summary of abuses particularly as they are laid upon former members trying to escape the Church’s “Billion Year Contract.”  The footnotes are as interesting as the text in that every allegation is categorically denied by the Church creating a dichotomy of, “Wright says vs. The Church Says.”  Even if one-tenth of the Church’s accuser’s stories are valid the Church would have an awful lot of explaining to do.  Wright does not dwell on any benefits the Church provides.  Surely there must be many for anyone to even consider joining.  Others may react to the book by quickly concluding that Hubbard was a nutter and so are Scientologists.  On the other hand I found myself with my jaw dropping wider with every chapter at the absurdity and viciousness of the Church’s behavior.  That’s good writing.