Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)
★★★★ / ★★★★
When I hear of the word “Scientology,” I think of a group of people, most often involving Tom Cruise, who follow a certain set of teachings that has been around for about fifteen years. And so “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” directed by Alex Gibney, is a most informative documentary, one that details what Scientology is about, its founder and current leader, celebrities formerly and currently within the organization, and what happens if one decided to leave. I was ignorant that this group has been around for decades and is only increasing in power.
The film is organized, clear, and purposeful. The first quarter introduces the viewer to L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. I found the man fascinating because he was clearly an imaginative person, having written so many science fiction books, and yet he used his writing prowess to create a lie that would have tsunami-like effects on so many people’s lives. Families are broken. Well-beings of others are threatened. Members are spending their lives trying to achieve something that probably means nothing. Imagine how these lives might have turned out differently if one man had not published a book called “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.”
I enjoyed learning about what the group stands for, what they do, and what they hope to achieve. A lot of the information tickled my insides due to the impracticality of the belief system. I am not saying that their belief is wrong or right—hence the term “belief”—but it amazes me that a group, not necessarily only specific to Scientologists, appears to lose their ability to think critically, which lasts over an extended period of time, even when they feel something is not quite right, whether it be morally or ethically.
And yet the picture does not judge. Rather, it is quite sympathetic to the former members who chose to be on camera without their faces being hidden in shadows. Notice how the camera lingers when a person admits to his or her disbelief for having been a part of the organization over a number of years. Clearly, these are people who feel ashamed, used, and angry. They not only lost time and energy they can never get back but also family members who are still members of the church. What is it about being a part of something that prevents us from recognizing reason sooner than we should?
The documentary, based on Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” does a great job summarizing Scientology’s roots, where it is now, and where it is heading which makes it worth seeing. People have good reason to be concerned because there is growing evidence that Scientology is a scam.
I have always said that a healthy religion is one that practices inclusion—even to those who may not believe in all, most, or any of the religion’s teachings. Scientology, like some other religions out there, practices active exclusion when any sort of dissent is involved. For example, sending members to ex-Scientologists’ private properties and, essentially, being a threat to people’s safety and preventing them to live their lives however they wish to. To me, such actions fall under the category called “terrorism.”