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The Secret World Of Scientology

Uncovering the secret inner world of Scientology with Pulitzer prize-winning author Lawrence Wright.

Members of the Church of Scientology walk past the new Flag Building, owned by the church, Aug. 28, 2007 in Clearwater, Fla. (AP)

Members of the Church of Scientology walk past the new Flag Building, owned by the church, Aug. 28, 2007 in Clearwater, Fla. (AP)

L. Ron Hubbard was a pulp fiction writer so prolific that he typed on an endless roll of butcher paper.  He poured out book after book of wild derring-do.  He created stories of cowboys and adventurers and science fiction – and then he kept right on going, to create a religion, Scientology.

With deathless souls, billion-year contracts, endless powers and – in Hollywood and beyond – a unique appeal.

To Tom Cruise.  To John Travolta.  And a dark side, too.  Shocking.  Secret

This hour, On Point:  Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Lawrence Wright on the world and ways of Scientology.

-Tom Ashbrook


Lawrence Wright, staff writer at the New Yorker. His new book is “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.” (@lawrence_wright)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Onion A.V. Club “Where Hubbard ruled through charm, seduction, and canny manipulation, David Miscavige, his successor as the head of Scientology, rules through terror and brute force. Miscavige comes off as a psychotic Dennis The Menace, a pint-sized bully with a history of physically attacking anyone who displeases him. (One of the book’s many tragic ironies is that the people who would benefit most from psychiatric treatment and medication, like the perpetually apoplectic, violent Miscavige, are also the least likely to seek it out).”

Esquire “Plenty of sane, accomplished, otherwise ordinary and intelligent people have at least dabbled in Scientology. Leonard Cohen did. So did Jerry Seinfeld. Even Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet legend, took courses. So what is the appeal? Why do reasonable people continue to tie themselves to a church with a reputation for ruthlessness?”

The Daily Beast “There were daily uniform and hygiene inspections, and any misbehavior—questioning of authority, lateness, or doing something ‘unethical’—earned a “chit,” a written demerit that went into a file for each child at the Ranch. She says little priority was put on education. Class was dubbed ‘Chinese school,’ as it was modeled after what L. Ron Hubbard reportedly observed classrooms to be like in China, and mainly involved repeating ‘everything we heard exactly as we heard it.’ A major part of class time was spent memorizing quotes by Hubbard”

Excerpt from “Going Clear”

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  • DrewInGeorgia

    Deja vu:

    And this was on Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago:

    Here’s hoping this is a better show than The Mormon Moment was.

  • Acnestes

    OK, where’s Ed75 now that we need him?

    • Don_B1

      He’s in the hospital trying to recover from the shock of the resignation of Pope Benedict 16 yesterday!

      • Mike_Card

        Wow!  A ready-made retirement career!

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    L Ron Hubbard was a brilliant con-artist. Much like many of today’s politicians, he re-invented himself so many times that his mythology drowned out the reality of his record, criminal record.

    There is no shortage of people wanting to believe in something that gives them hope and peace of mind. Like any other belief system, there is a power structure attached and men who are drawn to power seek that out and take control of it to exercise for their own benefit.

    L Ron Hubbard. His legacy is as much a piece of work as he was himself!

  • joel20001

    Sounds Interesting. Here’s a brand new one hot off the presses from Jon Atack an insider:

    “Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky: Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology”


  • Trudie

    Cult, blackmailing, muderers, child abusers, worse than the mafia…

  • Peter Duveen

    Best is not to beat up on different beliefs, but to truly understand how they arise, and to see what it is of benefit that we can learn from them, however vastly different they are from what we ourselves believe. Then we can intelligently and constructively address every point.

    • distractedriver

      I’d like to be that open minded, but public representations from Hollywood big shots makes it so hard to critically discuss any 600 lb gorilla questions.  And if you can actually get a Scientologist to critically speak with you about their “religion,”  and answer plaguing questions without blowing up in your face or threatening to sue your pants off, then you’ve found the one semi-rational member.

      • Don_B1

        Remember Tom Cruse jumping up and down on the sofa on either the “Today” or “Good Morning” shows?

        • Mike_Card

          Wasn’t that Oprah?

    • J__o__h__n

      Best to expose how they are all frauds. 

    • Acnestes

      On the contrary, beliefs should be the prime target of any thinker. “Beliefs are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” – Nietzsche

      Though you do have a point – we should explore the pathology.

  • Scott B

    L Ron Jr gave an interview to Penthouse in 1983 where he talks about how abusive his father was in all ways:mentally, physically, and sexually, to him, his sister, and his mother. He recalled seeing his father with the blood of his mother staining his clothes, and that’s one of the more tame recollections.

     I’m disappointed that Jr settled with the “church” in 1996 to no speak out against them.


  • Jasoturner

    Locate someone’s soft spot, then tell them you will help them overcome it.  Works pretty effectively, as our abundant churches and temples attest.

  • Marisa87

    I am very mistrustful of this church. Our family’s experience was that it is a stereotypical cult. My uncle (now deceased) was swindled out of all his money by this organization. They kept telling him he just needed to give more money to get to the next “level”. When he was bankrupt and barely getting by on social security disability the church decided they didn’t want anything to do with him because he clearly had no more money for them.

    • shargarepa

      ^^^Yes, this.

  • Davesix6

    This is a fascinating topic Tom.
    There are so many accounts out there from former members of Scientology that portray the organization as abusive and controlling.
    And yet, Scientology has all their “celebrity” endorsements.
    I tend personally to put more weight with the detractors rather than the endorsers.
    Most organizations look much better from the top than from the bottom or even the middle.
    I bought the book Dyanetics in my early twenties. Didn’t get anything from it personally.
    The more information that comes out the more Scientology looks like a cult.

  • ToyYoda

    Occasionally I run into a ‘recruiter’ from The Church of Scientology. When I ask them what their religion is all about, almost all recruiters say it’s a way to lead a life that’s science based as opposed to faith based.  Meaning, to go about living an ethical life based on scientific evidence of what works.  Basically, positive psychology.

    Now, I don’t know if they are lying when they say that, but I thought if that is what their religion is about, I couldn’t understand why it’s gotten such a bad reputation.  Ethics?  Positive psychology?  That is basically the core of Eastern Mysticism.

    • shargarepa

      Yeah, that’s what they tell you, and that’s what they’ll show you in the beginning. It is rather appealing, and it’s why so many people, myself included, fall/fell for it. But everything else you’re hearing and reading about? The scary stuff? That doesn’t come out until after you’ve drunken the Kool-aid and fallen down the rabbit hole. Please read everything you can get your hands on before considering having anything to do with that group. I cannot stress enough how dangerous they are to your psychological and financial well-being.

      • ToyYoda

        Okay, thanks for clarifying that and for the heads up.  I don’t plan on joining Scientology, or subscribing to a religion.  

        Philosophy, science, and Eastern Mysticism have been sufficient for me.  (I don’t consider zen, buddhism, Advaita vedanta, etc. as religions.)

  • J__o__h__n

    I don’t think that L Ron’s not taking the money makes him not a conman.  He was craving power over his followers not just their money. 

    • shargarepa

       I had the same thought, and I was surprised that this was overlooked. Hubbard seems to have been a raging narcissist, meaning that power would have been like a drug to him.

  • jim_thompson

    L Ron Hubbard, for the most part, didn’t live life wanting for any creature comforts-even while on the run.  Could your guest speak to the church’s banning in Germany and their activities within the IRS and US agencies trying to go after their critics?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    “dare to think for yourself” – give us your money and do what we tell you to do. It’s really not that different than many other faiths.

  • Scott B

    Any religion that feels it can’t stand up to criticism through its word and deeds, having to use the courts and intimidation, is business and racket, not a religion.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Hendrickson/1652586055 Joshua Hendrickson

      Any religion that “feels it can’t stand up to criticism through its word and deeds, having
      to use the courts and intimidation, is business and racket” . . .
      IS religion, by definition.

      • Scott B

        Religion by itself isn’t a racket. At it’s core it’s: Do good in the world. Be good to others.  But men pervert it with “Send me cash.” 

  • distractedriver

    What Tom Cruise means is that he’s an egotistical *$%!

  • M K

    Vis. “believability”, Scientology is no more or less absurd than Christianity.  I’m an atheist, but I find Scientology fascinating as a social movement in so far as it is obviously science fiction, by a sci-fi writer, who set out to start a religion, and succeeded.  That’s pretty awesome.  That religion and institutions in general are prone to corruption and abuse is empirically obvious — I still do not see the Scifi Church as exceptional in this regard.  Which is not to say it shouldn’t be scrutinized and criticized, but the results of such scrutiny do not seem to reveal anything that bad (compared to say, scrutiny of the Catholic Church).

    • shargarepa

       Um, your “scrutiny” skills are failing you if they “do not seem to reveal anything that bad.” Even this episode of OnPoint touched on people being imprisoned for years on end, among other abuses that are common in the church. Your willingness to gloss over that makes me think that you’re a Scientologist troll who’s improved their commenting schtick….. I used to be a member, and it’s every bit as bad as other former members describe, and sometimes worse.

  • Scififan2013

    From Wikipedia:

    It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay[4] this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.

  • Bibliodrone

    The doctrines of Scientology seem strange, even incoherent to an an outsider. Even the Wikipedia article will give you a good sense of what I mean. But then again, most religions are pretty out there. It’s just that some weirdness, like the symbolic ritual cannibalism of Catholicism, we are accustomed to, whereas other religions like Mormonism or Scientology are still “new” and “strange”.

    I’ll take agnosticism any day, personally.

    • Peter Duveen

      Well said. What is this kind of shocking idea of the host of this program that some of these beliefs should have some restrictions placed on them, as if freedom of religion should be done away with? Also, why should not an organization vigorously defend itself, including using some of the tactics that the FBI, CIA, IRS and other organizations, with the vast resources available to them, often utilize.

    • osullivan11

      great point. Another point that Wright makes is that historically, the leaders of religions, sects, cults have acted most perniciously in the wake of the death of their founder  ostensibly for the good of the group (st. paul for example) and if they manage to survive this…. then they are more likely to continue. The issue is whether modern society and our laws will allow this to occur….

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Apparently Scientology owes a lot to the gaga celebrity worship that exists in this country.

  • Bibliodrone

    Also, I’ve always wondered if there was any connection between L. Ron Hubbard and the inspiration for some of the characters in Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

  • Scififan2013

    This is well know to people who read Science Fiction:

    From Wikipedia:

     It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay[4] this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.

  • Scififan2013

    Those of us who are avid readers have known of the following for years:

    From Wikipedia:

    It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay[4] this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.

  • 1Brett1

    Scientologists believe that Hubbard will return some day and soon. They even keep several places ready for his return, with the rooms made up to accommodate an imminently arriving guest…fresh towels are put in bathrooms everyday, beds are made up and turned down every morning and night, and even a fresh pack of cigarettes (he was a chain smoker) is put out on his desk every day.

    Imagine the poor schlub who is in charge of those tasks every day?! (I wonder of they ever cheat: “eh, those towels are still clean, I’ll change ‘em tomorrow” Or, “who’s gonna know if this pack a’ cigarettes was bought today? I’m keepin’ the 7 bucks today and buyin’ a 5 dollar footlong and a soda!”)

  • Beyond_The_Political_Spectrum

    “Mythology is just somebody else’s religion!”

    Hijacking Religion

  • 2Gary2

    Boring–who cares about a bunch of easily fooled people believing in this crap.  it almost reminds me of the tea baggers stupidity in voting conservative.

    • RobertLongView

      my my, not a very “Christian” thing to do.  My bad, Jesus was not a Scientologist.  But, its all good for the Valley Girls!  Gang Nam style, PSI.  

  • kaltighanna

    Fascinating! The image of a “prison of belief” is spot on. Sadly, most people whose lives are destroyed by this religion – and all sorts of other ones – do it of their own free will. If only they gave their children a way out and a real choice instead of brain washing them from the cradle… 

  • BosonStark

    I read GOING CLEAR. Scientology is unique in the level of documentation of Hubbard being a liar who pushed an extreme amount of unscientific claptrap as “science” and “research.” 

    The members are unique in not knowing the basic well documented history of their founder or the organization.

    The organizational practices are designed as a trap. Instead of getting people well and away from the therapist, Scientology is designed to trap people harder, for purposes of extracting all the money (or labor) they can from members.

    Besides what Wright mentioned at the end, the DECEPTION must change. That is members are baited with self-improvement and switched to Keep Scientology Working — do anything for the cult — “ruin utterly” anyone who gets in the way of them clearing the planet. That is really sick.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VAW3NDROKTQBWW4CSS6CC6QUGQ __

    gary is a liberal piece of garbage and prays to obama

    • RobertLongView

      he’s not even American, probably a Kenyan Muslim.  But Tom Cruise is an American hero and he “…feels the need for speed.”  no more speed i’m almost there… last car to pass… here i go… woe woe wee ohhhhh “Radar Love’ — Golden Earring

  • Mighty Korgo of Teegeeack

    Hopefully, Scientology will come to an end soon.

  • RobertLongView

    L Ron Hubbard is a modern-day prophet just like Joseph Smith and the Mormans.  Satan get thee away from me!  

  • RobertLongView

    Ant infestation.  No doubt with all that Kool Aid and breaking of the bread.  Probably some other bugs too.  Bug House Blues.  Sold my soul to a Grade-B Hollywoodland movie producer.  Too bad they couldn’t save Ayn Rand’s soul.

  • North Eight

    The flaw in Scientology is found in Hubbard’s short early book “The Fundamentals of Thought”.  In “Dianetics” he proposed that if you could see a painful memory exactly, in effect recreating it, it would disappear.  In Scientology he extended this idea to the notion that if you can see anything for exactly what it is, it must disappear (so as not to violate the physical science concept that two things cannot occupy the same space and time).  This concept leads to a thought process of denial.  It says that for something to persist, we must not see it exactly as it really is.  In other words, existence is a lie.  This is the unseen satanic root of Scientology.


    • Abletu

      The satanic root of Scientology is that Ron was never clear.
      He intensely felt evil to be contagious and needed to be destroyed at its source.
      Ethics is the instruction set to control or destroy evil within  the spirit or thetan. The satanic root is Ron’s believe that evil resides within a person and is contagious. Evil is an opinion of an action that did not pan out as a constructive solution to the challenges facing a person every day, or as Ron would say a situation 

  • charles

    I believe the “power of positive thinking” personage you were thinking of (that “made millions”) was Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

    I thought of the same thing when you made that comment.

  • Harry Johnson

    They seem to have a lot of simple, practical ways of helping people too and I think that’s why people stay with them. Anyone who feels that there’s no spirit would never stay with them or any other religion though.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SFNLTPC46ZCPZMB5LLJQ4BBY6Q Monty

    I don’t get why this author is on every NPR program for this book? 

    • Grigalem

      I’m just spitballing here — because people who listen to NPR shows tend to read books?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7407933 Kelsey Jane

    There seems to be a problem withe audio download. I keep trying to download the file, but every time it is only 7 minutes long….

  • ExcellentNews

    Superpowers? Dianetics? One billion Chinese and one billion Hundus are ROFL-ing at what CRACKPOTS we are in America. And then they will eat our lunch…

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