Scientology is one of the wealthiest and most powerful new religions to emerge in the past century. To its detractors, L. Ron Hubbard's space-age mysticism is a moneymaking scam and sinister brainwashing cult. But to its adherents, it is humanity's brightest hope. Few religious movements have been subject to public scrutiny like Scientology, yet much of what is written about the church is sensationalist and inaccurate.
Here for the first time is the story of Scientology's protracted and turbulent journey to recognition as a religion in the postwar American landscape. Hugh Urban tells the real story of Scientology from its cold-war-era beginnings in the 1950s to its prominence today as the religion of Hollywood's celebrity elite. Urban paints a vivid portrait of Hubbard, the enigmatic founder who once commanded his own private fleet and an intelligence apparatus rivaling that of the U.S. government. One FBI agent described him as "a mental case", but to his followers he is the man who "solved the riddle of the human mind". Urban details Scientology's decades-long war with the IRS, which ended with the church winning tax-exempt status as a religion; the rancorous cult wars of the 1970s and 1980s; as well as the latest challenges confronting Scientology, from attacks by the Internet group Anonymous to the church's efforts to suppress the online dissemination of its esoteric teachings.
This book demonstrates how Scientology has reflected the broader anxieties and obsessions of postwar America, and raises profound questions about how religion is defined and who gets to define it.
©2011 Princeton University Press (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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Critic reviews

"The most scholarly treatment of the organization to date." (Scientific American)
"A fascinating and oftentimes mind-bending account of how penny-a-word sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard doggedly pursued the 'religion angle' in his quest to create the worldwide Church of Scientology. Urban makes it clear from the outset that he could have written a lot more about Scientology than he has here--perhaps even a few volumes more. Settling on a narrower scope, however, hasn't precluded the author from presenting a thoroughly absorbing chronicle of Scientology's 60-year history in America.... An intriguing introduction into the labyrinthine world of Scientology and its meaning in American society." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Urban addresses his subject as a historian of religion and objectively traces the complex history of a movement that is now recognized as a religion in the U.S.... With his fair, scholarly approach, Urban has written what is probably the best history available of this terribly tangled story." (Choice)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By G on 13-09-14

long and not very informative

I learnt very little listening to this book. It is unnecessarily long, self-consciously academic in style, very repetitive, and despite containing many promises of "astonishing" and "stunning" descriptions of scientology's activities in the hour-long introduction, it never actually delivers any stories about what it is that happens among scientologists which makes the cult so infamous.

The author clearly says that there are many things he cannot say because of a fear of legal action from scientology, and in the end the listener comes away none the wiser about what the problem really is with this group. For example, it is said that ex-scientologists have been bullied or harassed or threatened, but no concrete examples are given of such incidents.

As for the nature of the "religion" itself, it's such goobledygook that there is nothing to understand. One thing the author does not discuss at all is why anyone in their right mind would ever be attracted to it. It seems to me there is room for a discussion about why this kind of organisation appeals to people, but nothing is said about that.

Finally, the author's approach is politically correct in the extreme, maybe not for an American but certainly for a European. That is to say, he places scientogoly on the same plane as any other religion. He says all religions should be regarded in the same light, with both respect and suspicion, regardless of what they preach or of their methods. He even says government agencies should be treated in the same way. In other words, the IRS and the FBI should be regarded with the same amount of respect and suspicion as scientology!

Ultimatately, a two- or three-hour book, or even a Wikipedia page, would give you just as much information as this book does. Don't bother with it.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Frank on 12-07-16

Excellent Summary of Scientology

Would you listen to The Church of Scientology again? Why?

Perhaps. But there is so much out there on the subject, that I might want to listen to some other things first.

What other book might you compare The Church of Scientology to and why?

"Inside Scientology" - Janet Reitman. They both seem to be a basic history of the "religion".

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

As usual, the cringe-worthiness of Scientology is unparalleled. But in general, I ways feel sad for the rank-and-file mindless robots that do all the work (and yet sometimes still end up tortured for thinking on their own), and disgust for the leadership that reap all the rewards (re: money).

Any additional comments?

Excellent book on Scientology. It doesn't belabor Hubbard's early years like some of the other texts out there, but gives you just enough background to understand the "church" today. It's very comprehensive. This book, as any good research book should be, is told in a matter-of-fact way.

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3 out of 5 stars
By aussieGeorge68 on 14-04-13

Some good sections but largely tedious.

All in all there are some good sections of this book, but this is one of rare times I would recommend getting the book in text form and not in audio form. My first reason for this is the narrator, while Contessa Brewer voice is understandable, I find her voice annoying and not up to the standard of other narrators of non-fiction works such as Walter Dixon and Sandy Rustin. When Contessa changes her voice when quoting other people like Hubbard, her voice become even more annoying and comical. Reading will allow skimming of parts of the book uninteresting to the reader.

The large majority of this book is about "what is a religion in the 21st century" and "Scientology's complex journey to becoming a religion".

I did find Mr Urban's catalog of the early history of Hubbard and his various organisations interesting and informative and also the sections on the tactics used by the origination such as "Fair Game" to stop or attempt to stop critics and the leak of "Religious Information" interesting. The battle with the IRS for religious status was also interesting but was presented in a very verbose fashion overly long fashion in my opinion.

As the Author himself admitted a lot of information of the organisation has been left out for legal and other reasons, after listening to the compelling book "Beyond Belief" I was particularly interested in the organisation after Hubbard died and the takeover by David Miscavige, but there is little about this here.

I can't help feeling that this book has just been bulked up to reach a certain size for whatever reason. The first chapters are full of "In the later chapters I will show" statements and little else. In the later chapters some information is endlessly repeated. Its written almost like a text book.

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