Beyond Belief: book review


For some reason I just can't put down a good cult expose book. My latest is Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill, all about the inner workings of Scientology.  

Jenna's parents grew up as Scientologists but joined the 'Sea Org', the program for the truly committed, when Jenna was two years old. Everything they did was for the greater good and for the spread of Scientology. They even accepted the fact that the religion split their family up and restricted them from seeing their children more than once a week. 

Jenna spent years away from her parents, being indoctrinated into Scientology thinking and methods. But that sounds mild. She also worked 14 hour days, six days a week, including hours of hard labour even as a 7 year old child. She was emotionally abused and was paid next to nothing. Her accommodation and food were sub-standard and she endured months of being forced to confess and being constantly watched. She said it took her several years to get out of the habit of asking to go to the bathroom, even as an adult. Making matters worse was the fact that Jenna's uncle, David Miscavige was the head of the organisation.

Finally she and her husband left in their early 20s, walking away from their friends and many family members for the chance to control their own life instead of having an oppressive system control it for them. 

The most I ever knew about Scientology was the fact that Tom Cruise is one (and he's a little wacky, no?) Oh, and apparently they don't think post-natal depression is a thing.

Unfortunately, it turns out it's a lot more sinister than I knew. 

I did once have a run-in with L Ron Hubbard, the founder of the religion. Well, not him exactly, but his books. Advertised in the local paper in Gunnedah back when I was about 17 was a writers competition.  I contacted the address for more information and was sent a whole stack of stuff about L Ron Hubbard's books and an entry form for my own manuscript.

I dismissed it once I found out they were looking for sci-fi writers. Then, as now, science fiction was not on my radar. I just don't like the genre.

Unfortunately for me, it took about five years and a change of address for me to get off their mailing list. I had envelope after envelope of materials extolling the greatness of LRH as he's known in Scientology. It tallies with Hill's description of the relentless nature of the religion's pursuit of people.

The most intriguing thing about Hill's memoir is all the inside-Scientology-speak. There are acronyms and phrases for everything.  'Get your TRs in' means 'Get a hold of your emotions'. 'They're out-2D' means 'they're having an affair'. It's a whole new language.

I recommend Hill's book for an interesting read as well as a warning. Once you're in a religion or an institution or a group that starts to control you, it's time to look elsewhere.

And if you're the leader of a group of people of whatever kind and you start to use manipulation and control to get what you want, it's time to look at yourself. The misuse of power causes tragedies in other people's lives.


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