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Book Club: “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright

Posted on : 05-03-2013 | By : John | In : Book Club

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Everyone knows a little about Scientology, and has heard the horror stories: snakes* in mailboxes and people locked in rooms to starve, and we all know a smattering of their strange sci-fi and conspiracy-laden belief system, but how much of what we “know” is accurate? Especially since they keep many of their beliefs secret even from their adherents, what’s the straight dope? Is it even a religion (an attempt to make sense of an indifferent or hostile universe based on magical thinking), or is it just a scam?

Lawrence Wright has written Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief which promises to uncover the inner workings of Scientology. Wright is a Pulitzer winning writer for the New Yorker, who wrote the definitive history of Al Qaeda and the events leading up to 9/11.

I’ve read about 1 1/2 chapters of Going Clear so far. It is long, but engaging and well-written. The first chapter is the story of a typical recruit, Paul Haggis (later an Oscar-winning screen writer) who eventually became Scientology’s most famous recent apostate. (But I haven’t got to that part yet.) The second chapter tells the story of the hack writer L. Ron Hubbard, who failed up to become Scientology’s founder and principle prophet. Maybe if he knew about hypnagogic dreams and oxygen deprivation, it all never would have happened.

We will be meeting at our usual time and place, on Saturday March 30th at 3:00 PM at Harvard’s Northwest Science Building, 52 Oxford Ave, Cambridge. Be sure to bring a snack!

If you RSVP on Facebook, we can notify you of any late changes.

If you can’t make it to the meeting, or even if you can, Mary will be discussing the book the next day in the Skepchick Book Club, as always.

[*] That was Synanon, a different cult, but lots of people seem to make that mistake.