Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology And My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill & Lisa Pulitzer

Having just finished a bunch of Orwell, this was both mind-boggling and horribly sympathetic. She describes growing up in a state of repression more suited to communism or a paranoid dictatorship a la North Korea than to any religion that purports to help people self-actualize. I applaud her for having the intelligence to see that what was being done to her was wrong, and the courage and fortitude to escape from it. She does her best to explain how people willingly go along with the diktats of the organization, tho I have to admit that I have difficulty understanding how those who know there’s a better alternative (as she did not growing up) could possibly continue in it. People, amirite? Anyway, fascinating insight to the inner workings of Scientology. Could have used some tighter editing, and the ending seems a bit rushed in comparison to the much more clearly written first two-thirds, but otherwise a decently written memoir.

And, you know, being an adherent of a religion that’s often also vilified, I’m hesitant to write anything truly critical of Scientology. If you can get good from your belief system, if it makes you be a better person and treat others humanely and take the long view of life, then I’m all for it. But Ms Hill makes it clear that the practical application of Scientology long ago left behind any interest in really helping its adherents, as opposed to robbing them of money, identity and freedoms instead. Any religion that subsumes the happiness of its adherents to the good of the institution needs to be questioned, at the very least. If it can’t survive that questioning, then maybe it isn’t a religion worth following after all.

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