Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (based on the book by Lawrence Wright) provides a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of the religion known as Scientology based on the writings and beliefs of sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard.
Interviews are conducted throughout the documentary with people who examined the religion from different angles, as well as Hubbard’s ex-wife and former members of the church itself. The majority of the former members interviewed were long-time members and high officers in the organization including one such member who belonged to the church for over 27 years and reached the highest rank possible within the church’s spiritual chain of command. The origin of the church with Hubbard through the church’s meteoric rise in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s after Hubbard’s passing up to current day are all part of the film’s timeline. Part of what makes this examination of events so compelling is the discussion of the inner workings and policies of the organization and just how manipulative it is.
The discussion of the more famous members is part of the material including some in-depth background information on both Tom Cruise and John Travolta and how they’re involved. It makes you look at them in different lights, especially when you gain an understanding of how unstable and deceptive Hubbard was and how the church has been accused of everything from torture and kidnapping to brain washing and human trafficking. One of the validating themes through which these sentiments are conveyed are the testimonies of the former members themselves. One such member recants a situation when she went to claim her child from what would have been the Scientology version of a daycare program only to find her daughter covered in flies, her eyes pasted shut from an eye infection and wearing diapers that hadn’t been changed in a very long time.
Bottom line – it’s a scary organization which was founded for the purpose of making tax-free money that literally attacks its critics, threatens its members, and gets people to believe stories of aliens creating the human race along with people being infected with evil souls that cause you to do bad things. Oh and to find out that last part about the aliens, they don’t tell you that up front, you only find that out after you’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars and spent years and years studying the beliefs of Hubbard.
Directed by Alex Gibney, this is a super-interesting documentary and a most revealing look at a “religion” that’s spent a lot of time trying to hide its secrets. After seeing this, I understand why they’re so secretive…
The film is on HBO now but is being re-released in theaters and wide soon.
reviewed by Sean McKnight