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At Least it Wasn’t Piers Anthony’s Utopia

beyond belief

 

If you’ve read the book Going Clear or seen the HBO documentary of the same name, the coercive tactics and cult-like secrecy used by the Church of Scientology will come as no surprise to you. What makes Beyond Belief unique is the inside view of the actual structure of the Sea Org itself. Jenna Miscavige is the niece of David Miscavige, the spiritual and financial head of the church. Her parents left their comfortable life in their custom built dream home to join the Sea Org before Jenna had even reached grade school. At 6 she joined Cadet Org, the Sea Org’s program for children and signed a 5 billion year contract with the church at the age of six. She was a strong believer in Scientology until the age of 21 when she and her husband broke from the church.

L Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s creator, was a schlock science fiction writer and it shows in the religion he founded. Hubbard’s perfectly ordered society leaves no room for human error or frailty. Naturally, any problems you have are due to sins or secrets (called overts and withholds by the church) on your part. Questioning and arguing with your superiors is met with intense auditing and security checks where you are often questioned for hours or weeks at a time until you finally admit to wrongdoing. In any halfway decent sci fi novel, the hero would be the person who leads the rebellion against this bizarre dystopia. But upper level Scientologists believe they are saving humanity.

Jenna’s closeness to Scientology’s upper echelon actually gives her a more balanced perspective than one might think. She cannot bring herself to hate many members of the Sea Org. Even her uncle David, said by his detractors to be an abusive megalomaniac, is not condemned outright by Jenna. Her lack of bitterness despite decades of abuse and lies makes for a very evenhanded read.  A quick note: Make use of the Glossary at the back of the book. Scientology is full of its own lingo and can be a trick to keep track of where Jenna is and what department she’s in at any given point in the book.

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