What I learned is that the principles and practices of Scientology (auditing, studying, E-Meters, etc.), strange and unorthodox though they may seem to non-Scientologists, have legitimately helped many people who were suffering. But just as many (probably many more) have been snared into an organization that only seems to have its own best interests and survival in mind. While the practice of Scientology may seem relatively harmless, the Church of Scientology itself, if Wright's account is to believed (and why not? He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist) is corrupt and immensely self-serving, its founder L. Ron Hubbard was a wife-beating, narcissistic, money-grubber liar, and its current leader (David Miscavige), is one of those people so used to lying, he now believes his own stories. (Also, according to many of Wright's sources — ex-Scientologists who have "blown," meaning they've left the church, Miscavige regularly beats up his subordinates. He's not a good man.)
Wright gives us some really interesting discussion on Scientology vs. psychology, and why the mental health community was the first vocal critic of Scientology. We learn about cult vs. religion, brainwashing, and how those can be applied to Scientology and its history. And we're shocked to find out about the lengths Scientologists have gone in order to suppress anything bad written about them (for the cliff notes, read about Paulette Cooper, and also Operation Snow White).
And then, the juicy Hollywood gossip — John Travolta's apparent homosexuality, and Tom Cruise's "auditioned" girlfriends. What's interesting here, though, is Wright's explanation for why and how Scientology is (and always has been) so adept at courting celebrities. And then Wright wraps up with the story of Paul Haggis — and his leaving the church because of the church's apparent support for Proposition 8 in California. Wright originally told this story in a long New Yorker article in 2011 — and the last chapter of this book chronicles the meeting he and the New Yorker staff had with a Scientology spokesperson named Tommy Davis, and the church's lawyers. This is when it becomes apparent how self-serving and loose with facts the church is.
I can't recommend this book more highly — it's utterly engrossing. It's long, but it reads more quickly than just about any non-fiction book I've ever read. It's one of my favorites of the year so far.