As 90% of the people in my life know, Scientology is one of my favorite topics on earth. I have read or watched a ton of literature on the topic, from news/journalism (recommended is the Tampa Bay Times’ ongoing series on Scientology) to documentaries (BBC’s Panorama episode on this is even better than the HBO documentary adaptation of this book), to the personal blogs and sites of former Scientologists. So when I say that Going Clear was awesome, I really mean it.
Lawrence Wright is incredibly balanced and even though some of the stuff in the book is way disturbing, namely the Sea Org abuses more than L. Ron Hubbard’s life or the “belief system” of Scientology itself, he presents at the end a really reasonable defense of Scientology as a religion and it’s clear why he finds Scientology so fascinating. Telling this story and exploring this topic neutrally has presented problems to a lot of other creators – actually, I think Alex Gibney lost some of this in the adaptation to documentary, and that’s the primary reason this book succeeds so much better – but Wright maintains true journalistic neutrality the whole time, letting his own voice fade in deference to the facts. And honestly, including footnotes with the Church’s extravagant denials is often more effective than Wright including any kind of opinion at all at proving his subtle point.
It’s also the most comprehensive Scientology piece I’ve read so far, which is saying a lot, considering that as a layman I can converse pretty easily in the jargon of Scientology. This includes everything – if you’re going read one thing about Scientology, read this book. I promise you won’t regret it.