Scientology, created in 1954 by a prolific sci-fi writer named L. Ron Hubbard, claims to be the world's fastest-growing religion, with millions of members around the world and huge financial holdings. Its celebrity believers keep its profile high, and its teams of "volunteer ministers" offer aid at disaster sites such as Haiti and the World Trade Center. But Scientology is also a notably closed faith, harassing journalists and others through litigation and intimidation, even infiltrating the highest levels of government to further its goals. Its attacks on psychiatry and its requirement that believers pay as much as tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for salvation have drawn scrutiny and skepticism. And ex-members use the Internet to share stories of harassment and abuse.
Now Janet Reitman offers the first full journalistic history of the Church of Scientology, in an even-handed account that at last establishes the astonishing truth about the controversial religion. She traces Scientology's development from the birth of Dianetics to today, following its metamorphosis from a pseudoscientific self-help group to a worldwide spiritual corporation with profound control over its followers and even ex-followers.
Based on five years of research, unprecedented access to church officials, confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is the defining book about a little-known world.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: Whatever your opinion of Scientology, the truth is more extreme. Inside Scientology is journalist Janet Reitman's incredible book-length follow-up to the Rolling Stone cover story of the same name, a 2007 finalist for the National Magazine Award. Founded by wayward science-fiction writer and historical revisionist par excellence L. Ron Hubbard, "America's Most Secretive Religion" is perhaps best known for high-profile adherents like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but its tenets, processes, and internal organization form a story as surprising and captivating as that of any investigative work released this year. Reitman's extensive research--including hundreds of interviews with devotees and defectors alike--culminates in an expansive, page-turning survey of the origins, development, crises, beliefs, and scandals of this fascinating incorporated religion, all with a fair-minded approach that favors diligent curiosity over judgment at every turn. "It has been my goal to write the first objective modern history of the Church of Scientology," Reitman writes in the book's introduction, and to this end, Inside Scientology succeeds in spades. This book will remain the definitive study of the subject for a long time to come. --Jason Kirk