Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief

Finalist, National Book Awards 2013 for Nonfiction

Lawrence Wright, Going Clear book cover
ISBN 9780307700667
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
Lawrence Wright, Photo credit: Kenny Braun
Lawrence Wright

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A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige—tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

Judges Citation

In a cool, measured voice, Lawrence Wright details the often shocking history of the Church of Scientology. Beginning with discrepancies between the authorized biography of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the facts in his military, marital, and medical records, Wright investigates allegations of child-slavery and torture in today’s church, while at the same time examining how Hollywood and its cult of celebrity have offered fertile ground for the germination of exotic faiths.