Thursday, July 20, 2023

Book Report: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & The Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright


Book Report: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & The Prison of Belief

by Lawrence Wright

General Overview

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright is riveting. It discusses the “religion” Scientology, which is described not unlike the material its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, wrote about in his science-fiction books. It is captivating to hear how this mentally disturbed man used his twisted imagination to convince thousands of people to follow his rules, all in the quest for wealth. Tactics included violence, being unable to communicate with family, kids being raised away from parents, and prison-like situations. Yet, because some individuals, including well-know actors in Hollywood, prospered from the teachings of this group, people believed in his truth.

The information supplied about what the members of this religion endured is hard to comprehend. Both L. Ron Hubbard and its future leader, David Miscavige, were ruthless to members, members that chose to leave, and anyone that had a negative word to say about Scientology.  They chose to be referred to as a religion for the sole purpose of being a tax-free institution. The aspects of this life more resemble a cult than a religion. In reality, Scientology was a controlling, abusive entity that satisfied a misled man that was greedy for wealth and power.


Favorite Part

The most extreme topic of this book that both blew my mind and sickened me, is the idea of the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) and the Child Care Org that were created by Hubbard. The RPF was a living situation that was a form of punishment for members that dared to question any of the teachings (known as a Suppressed Person (SP)) or were not progressing to Hubbard’s standards. It was presented as a second chance opportunity, but the conditions were unfair and extreme, rather than rehabilitating. The RPF housed members “in the old cattle hold belowdecks, illuminated by a single lightbulb, sleeping on stained mattresses on the floor. They were dressed in black overalls, called boiler suits, and forbidden to speak to anyone outside of their group. They ate using their hands from a bucket of table scraps, shoveling the food into their mouths as if they were starving” (Wright 155).  

This horrific treatment was also extended to the children. Sylvia Taylor was appointed a “handler” to take care of John Travolta during his time with Scientology. When she questioned the treatment of another member, she was taken to the RPF and her newborn daughter was put in the Scientology nursery known as the Child Care Org. “there were thirty infants crammed into a small apartment with wall-to-wall cribs, with one nanny for every twelve children. It was dark and dank, and the children were rarely, if ever, taken outside” (Wright 190). Another example is that of member David Mayo who was sent to the RPF and was “made to run around a pole in the searing heat for 12 hours a day, until his teeth fell out” (Wright 212).

Hubbard spoke about a dictator named Xenu, who ran the Galactic Confederation of 76 planets. This story talks about “body thetans” which were Xenu’s people that he cast away that cause humans harm.  Scientology uses auditing, a form of therapy because this is the only way to remove these thetans from the Scientologist. Which sounds credible in one of his best-selling science fiction novels, but not in real life. This made me think about many of the lectures from this class.  In the talk on Subliminal Messaging, we learn that "What you expect is what you believe [not what you get]" (Pratkanis). You may believe in things that are hard to grasp based on what life experiences you have already experienced that may have left you vulnerable. Therefore, if repeated images and suggestions are told over and over, certain people who are looking for “help” may begin to believe what they are being told. The Xenu story is similar to the UFO sightings/abductions where people want to believe this is true to feel “special” or “chosen” and since they have heard other stories, they hang on to the hope that it is true.



Because of these stories of mistreatment, the question is why did the followers choose to stay? One quick answer is that Hubbard had tactics in place where a person was forced to suffer consequences for leaving or attempting to leave.  In trying to “go clear”, members take classes and counseling to rise higher on the “bridge to total freedom.” If they decided to leave, they were then subjected to paying a “freeloader’s tab” equal to thousands of dollars for the information they already received. To add to this negative revelation was the fact that until they paid this huge debt, they were unable to speak to any family members still in Scientology. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This is an example of the sunk cost bias where you have already invested so much time and energy into this organization that it is hard to leave. The pros are clouded by all the cons. The idea of being ostracized and separated from your family, having to pay back money you don’t have, and admitting that all the time spent there was in vain, is too much to handle in many cases. Another bias is the Groupthink because if you questioned anything about Hubbard’s teachings, it was assumed that you were against the group and there would be a punishment for it. So, it was best to keep any questionable thoughts to yourself when associating with the other members. The confirmation bias is when you take new, potentially important information and twist it around to fit what you already believe. This is what the Scientology members do to justify the outlandish beliefs they have been taught. 10% of Our Brain and Out of Body Experiences applies to Hubbard’s teachings as well because he was capable of convincing others (brainwashing) that he knew what he was talking about, and he was going to help them. This could be because he was such an accomplished science fiction writer, that he sounded credible. In life, sometimes, based on how you were raised, people believe what they cannot see or prove. They followed these teaching with the blind faith of accomplishing something great because they so needed to get a “win” from life.


The entire idea of being told what to do despite what your gut tells you or without proper explanation reminds me of a parent or teacher instructing children and they are taught to listen. The idea of Scientology is mind control at best and abuse at its worst. If their teachings were to achieve “spiritual enlightenment” there should not be a need for the harassment the is used toward any member with a question or doubt. Children need to follow the lessons of an adult because the child needs to learn. However, hitting or locking away adults for not agreeing with everything that came out of a delusional, mentally unstable man looking to get rich is quite another issue. My photo is using satire to illustrate how I view the teachings of Scientology. It’s like scolding little kids on what they should believe and how they should think.

Scientology videos that show/explain the conditions:



We live in a current environment where we have the “me-too” movement, the idea of “cancel culture “, bullying both online and in person, and forms of racism still existing. Leah Remini has produced a television show, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath where past Scientologists, including her co-host, Mike Rinder, who was high in the Scientology world, detail horrific events during their stay on the Scientology compounds. Many of the events are criminal and the perpetrators should be jailed. Yet somehow Scientology is still profiting, still a tax-free organization, still abusing members and still harassing anyone that attempts to form their own opinion.  A major coup for this “religion” is getting and using celebrities to support their teachings. Hollywood has the power to expose this organization for who they truly are, but they seem to take what they can get from Scientology and “stick their head in the sand” for the rest. This a type of in-group bias. The celebrities are being treated well so they will stand behind those other members because they are benefiting and are feeling positive effects.

I think Scientology does a good job of providing an answer for all of the actions that they take, good or bad. They have a reason for everything. My hope is that more celebrities who are aware of the atrocities of this group, come forward and stand up for what is right. Leah Remini strikes me as a strong-willed person who speaks her mind. This is what is necessary if the truth is to be set free. Even if the celebrity themselves have not been abused, they need to stop ignoring the truth of what this “cult” really is.

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