Because of various problems with Blogger, I've copied everything as of November 26, 2012 over to WordPress. The new location is Ask the Scientologist. I am not deleting this blog and will still accept comments and answer questions here too, but any new articles will appear at the WordPress location. I apologize if this causes any problems.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Inside Scientology" by Janet Reitman

I do apologize for coming late to this.  I wanted to read this book when it first came out but I was in the middle of a couple of very large projects.  Now that they are successfully completed, I've finally had time to read this wonderful book.

If anyone has not yet read this book and, if they have any interest at all in Scientology and the Church of Scientology, I highly recommend it.

In her Introduction, Ms. Reitman says:
It has been my goal to write the first objective modern history of the Church of Scientology.
To say that Ms. Reitman succeeded would be an understatement.  I, personally, could not have done that -- as an ex-Scientologist, I am definitely not objective about Scientology.   Most people who have been touched in any way by Scientology cannot be objective about it.  Scientology is a completely black and white belief system -- there is no grey.  You are either completely pro-Scientology or you are an Enemy.  Those who become opposed to the Church of Scientology often, in reaction to Scientology's absolutism, take an opposite, and just as absolute, negative position.  It's hard not to.

Yet, without a doubt, Ms. Reitman has produced an objective book.  Since I know she too was attacked by the Church of Scientology for her earlier piece in The Rolling Stone, my admiration for her journalistic integrity is boundless.

But don't let the term "objective" mislead you.  This is not a dry dissertation, it is not boring and it doesn't indulge in that false "journalistically neutral" rhetoric.  You will get the facts surrounding the real events -- untouched by the Church of Scientology's spin, cover-up and lies.

Scientology is, ultimately, about people and Ms. Reitman brings the story of Scientology alive by bringing alive the people who have been involved in Scientology -- from L. Ron Hubbard, struggling to find his path to fame, to those who have struggled in and out of the church, to the latest wide-eyed, ever-hopeful new Scientologist.  This is a book about how people were changed by Scientology -- and how Scientology has been changed by people.

I found it a bit disturbing to read this long history of Scientology from L. Ron Hubbard's troubled life, through the heady early days of hope and excitement and finally to the logical conclusion of Hubbard's paranoia and greed.  It was disturbing because it was true.  It stirred up memories of my own hopes -- and my own disappointments.

In case you might want to question how very thoroughly and diligently Ms. Reitman has researched and fact-checked the stories in this book, her extensive Notes section detailing the exact sources for each chapter is beyond impressive.  This section alone makes the Church of Scientology's cries of "sloppy journalism" completely laughable.

All-in-all, this book was a great read, enlightening, fascinating, informative and with the ring of truth in every page.  This book is now at the top of my list for anyone interested in Scientology and I would highly recommend this book for anyone currently in or recently out of Scientology.


  1. The Church of Scientology pretends that no one who says bad things about them is objective when it's impossible to write about them objectively without doing so. They will always complain about anything that isn't a fawning puff piece.

  2. It is an objective book. She did not, however, delve into the tech of scientology, just the behavior and orgnization. I'd be curious to see a book on that subject!

    What are your thoughts on the ending of the book, where she discusses the future of Scientology and her belief that young people like Valerie are propelling an evolution similar to the protestants did with the Catholic church?

    I found it highly unlikely, expecially that young people are going to be able to have opinions about the Sea Org and DM and still be able to get up the scientology bridge.

    I mean, Valerie has Sylvia Stanard of DC, her husband and their daughter as friends on her facebook!

    I wish Reitman would have spoken to other young people in the cult to aid in a more objective cnclusion.

  3. Re: Saying bad things

    Yes, according to Scientology, you must agree with everything that they say or you are "not being objective". That's a different definition of objective than the rest of the world uses.

    What can you say? It's a cult.

  4. @Formerly Fooled

    There is a "future" for Scientology for anyone who is willing to recognize and discard the evil, bad and useless parts. That, as you noted, is not possible in "standard Scientology". It is only possible in an environment like the Free Zone.

    In other words, only the squirrels will survive.

    "Standard Scientology" is so thoroughly flawed there is no hope for it. Most Scientologists already discard the unworkable, bad and evil parts -- they just don't admit it. When pressed to "use it all", they inevitably fail and fail badly.

    Obviously, to analyze the actual technology of Scientology would be a much, much more complex task. I'd even say impossible.

    Janet Reitman probably would have been very glad to talk to more Scientologists but "good" Scientologists never talk to journalists. I'm very sure the young woman Reitman did talk to was assigned a very low condition for doing so.

  5. Anyone wondering about Scientology's journalistic standards and objectivity need look no further than the hack job done on Lawrence Wright and Paul Haggis in Freedom Magazine.

  6. One of the weaknesses of Janet's first article was how her cult contacts clammed up. At least Natalie was fairly open, and didn't talk about building renovations.

  7. @ Formerly Fooled:

    Re scilon young people - tikk has a great comment at the Village Voice re Natalie:

    Not that such a fear seems realistic--Hubbard egotistically sabotaged Scientology by prohibiting its evolution, which will prevent it from competing even in the self-help arena, much less the religion arena, where it's widely and properly regarded as a cult. And I guess that's my own minor quibble with the book, where Reitman expresses hope for the future of Scientology by viewing it through the eyes of a Natalie, a hopeful youngster from an obviously well-off family.

    While I think it was admirable to decide to include so much of Natalie in the book as a Scientology best-case scenario, I also don't see any reason to view Natalie as anything but a distant outlier to the general rule, which has only ever seen the people most active and nearest to power in Scientology always employing ends-justifies-the-means rationales to consolidate power, attack critics, destroy families, surreptitiously seek coddling from government agencies (or alternatively, attack them), etc. etc.

    What historical evidence has only ever shown is that Scientology ultimately and always rewards those who apply its highest and defining precept--Keep Scientology Working--above all else. And so KSW will always trump any other bland human betterment precept cited by Hubbard and delusionally clung to by what few Natalies remain in Scientology. It was a nice thought by Reitman that the Natalie view could somehow one-day prevail (Reitman doesn't directly suggest, but I'm inferring as much due to her ending the book with Natalie), but I don't see any reason how or why it ever would.


Comments will be moderated. Have patience, I get around to it pretty quick. As a rule of thumb, I won't approve spam, off-topic, trolling or abusive stuff. The rest is usually OK. Yes, you can disagree with me.