And have been slow to put up anything up about it – mostly because I’m, you know, a mother to an infant, a full-time working journalist, and kind of a proper playwright nowadays as well.
The book has stayed with me, though, and I feel compelled to say at least something, if not write a proper review.
I think we all ought to be grateful to Reitman for attempting to write a dispassionate book on the Church of Scientology. I understand that a lot of the teachings of Scientology are supposed to be this Terribly Important Secret, but as both a member and a fan of the Russian Orthodox Church in all of its wacky glory, it seems to me that Scientology is really no more insane than the rest of humanity’s major cults. I still think L. Ron Hubbard was mostly a con artist (based on the compelling evidence put together by the writers at one of my favourite websites), but certainly some of the stuff he wrote ended up helping a lot of people and whatever, more power to them. And for all of the people who are bitching and moaning about how Scientology made Tom Cruise into a weirdo – no. Just no. Dude was always a weirdo. You can see it in his smile from way back when. Scientology just helped him get in touch with the inner freak inside.
Still, Reitman is right to point out that the way Scientology is currently run makes it ripe for criticism – both from random outsiders who are staring at it in that whole “check out this fascinating slo-mo trainwreck” type of way, and from ex-members. So I’m betting that there will be proper Protestant Scientologists and Puritan Scientologists and, you know, Calvinist Scientologists soon enough, i.e. the church is splitting.
People looking for Shocking! Horrifying! Facts! are probably going to be disappointed with Reitman. She doesn’t trade a whole lot on rumour and her tone is dry. Perhaps the biggest revelation here is that for a non-believer, Scientology is really not that fascinating – in a sense that non-believers who are looking to be fascinated are going to gravitate towards reading about fringe cults who sacrifice their elderly to Jeff, the God of Biscuits, instead.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about Scientology is how, by virtue of a whole lot of secrecy, church leadership has managed to cover up the fact that it’s fairly bland. Even if you account for all of that Xenu and exploding volcanoes stuff. In a world that already has Kali and Hades and stoning evil apostates – is Scientology really that impressive? I guess the price-tags for some of the spiritual packages it offers surely are. In this economy, anyway.