Lawrence Wright's long look at Scientology, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief, is set for release tomorrow, and reviews, for the most part, have been overwhelmingly positive. But why? Lawrence is only the latest high-profile investigation into the underbelly of Scientology, following big heaves by St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times and Janet Reitman's landmark book Inside Scientology. While those who have read Wright's effort already have not reported any bombshell revelations, they are full of raves. How does it stand out? Well, here's what critics have to say:
Wright Puts Scientology in the Context of American Religious Belief
Though he provides biting anecdotes and damning allegations Wright is not dismissive of Scientology. Troy Jollimore at the Chicago Tribune explains how the book's "most intriguing aspect" is how Wright raises "general questions about the nature of faith and reason and the role of religion in American life." Wright makes the case that it's hard to write it off as illegitimate, that "Scientology's methods of establishing its claims are in principle no better, but also no worse, than those of any other religion." Jollimore explains how the "prison of belief" that factors into Wright's subtitle has a place in every religion. But that general point does not take away how Scientology's particular "prison of belief" can be horrifying. Take this example Jollimore provides:
In one striking example, Hollywood composer Mark Isham, who worked with [Paul] Haggis before the latter's apostasy, justified his refusal to read newspaper articles critical of the church by stating that in his view, "it was like reading Mein Kampf if you wanted to know something about the Jewish religion."
But the book makes the case that the scariest part of Scientology is that it shares a "the resistance to criticism and objective evidence" with other religions. Wright writes all of this in what James Kirchick of the Daily Beast describes as a "measured tone." Per Kirchick, Wright's "use of a scalpel instead of a hammer to dissect Scientology and its manifold abuses, which renders his conclusions all the more damning." That said, Janet Maslin in the New York Times makes the case that for all of this Wright isn't quite able to crack Scientology's mysteries.