If you are looking for a book covering in detail what Scientology believes and its teachings, I would not recommend this be the first book on the subject you read. However, if you are looking for a historic outline of the organization, starting with its founder L. Ron Hubbard to near present time (2011), this book does an exceptional job telling that story. “Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion” by Janet Reitman, and well narrated by Stephen Hoye, is a high-level view of Scientology told not only from a reporter’s outside perspective, but the author herself was an involved for years within Scientology. The book includes stories not only from the author’s own experiences, but also current and former members of Scientology along with research uncovered along the way are also added.
This organization would not have been able to thrive apart from the many social aspects that were taking happening at the time. As with most other start up religions, it would have faded away into obscurity apart from its timing. Right after World War II, we saw a rise of some of the great science fiction writers who wanted to show us the future post wartime. There was also the rise of modernism and not far afterwards post-modernism. Scientology holds to many of the traditional Eastern religions philosophies of the mind along with one’s ability to modify reality by believing or not believing something. If you are ill, simply believe you are well and it could be so, etc. So, because Scientology was in the right place at the right time, it survived where many others have failed.
I was quite surprised to see how involved and driven Scientology is by what is discussed in the book. Recruitment was key and critical for its survival, even better if they could retain people who bore children in Scientology, it could grow from the inside out. This point of recruitment is driven into the reader’s minds starting on page one all the way to its end. The organization is focused on making money through sales of products, therapy sessions, and tithing. It developed itself like a franchise. The author even discussed how many of their business practices were taken from Mc Donald’s corporation. The desire of its followers was to become “clear”, or removed from the disruption of this life and world, but this came at a cost; both financially and time dedication. It was also interesting to see how Scientology adjusted over the years to market its belief system to people who are more influential of others; this started the move of bringing in the best of the best from Hollywood because they knew the influence such people had on a large portion of the population. Not only would this help to legitimize the “religion”, but it would also bring in large sums of money from the stars themselves and drive others to Scientology along with their money. The book somewhat, without outright saying it, shows Scientology to be a multi-level marketing program like Amway and others where those on the top all benefit from the work done by the lower ranks.
What I found fascinating was the coup that occurred near the end of the founder’s life and how easy it was for a single person to take the reins of this multimillion-dollar organization. A large portion of the book is spent covering this event and future chapters show the impact it had overall. There were also chapters dedicated to specific people who were involved and their tragic outcomes; Natalie and Lisa are two examples.
I wanted to say that although this book is a documentary, there are places where the author uses vulgar language when it is a part of a quote. Often when quoting Tom Cruise and other celebrities nearer the end of the book, yet there are a few other times they are sprinkled in. Just be aware if this book is being used for research purposes by younger readers. There are also some graphic depictions of death and suffering that may be quite intense for younger audiences. Apart from these two things, the writing was top notch and the book’s outline had a well-defined flow.
As others have stated, and I’m not sure why, but I would have like to have had a female narrator for this book. Stephen Hoye did a fantastic job, but the writing style and knowing the author was female I somewhat expected it to be narrated by a female. After the first chapter or so, I got over this feeling and enjoyed the voice of Mr. Hoye. It should also be noted that he is no stranger to narration on Audible, he has nearly 300 titles narrated at the time of this review.
In summary, this book is not a primer on Scientology but more a historical perspective of it. If you go into the book with this perspective, it is well worth the time spent and the knowledge gained. I would have liked to have had a few chapters dedicated to more beliefs and practices, but this was not part of the book’s scope. Although it is a bit dated, I still think the historical information is important for people not a part of Scientology to know and understand.