Monday, April 21, 2014

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing EscapeTitle: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape
Author: Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer
Read: April 10, 2014

Summary: Jenna Miscavige Hill was raised to obey. As the niece of the Church of Scientology's leader David Miscavige, she grew up at the center of this highly controversial and powerful organization. But at twenty-one, Jenna made a daring break, risking everything she had ever known and loved to leave Scientology once and for all. Now she speaks out about her life, the Church, and her dramatic escape, going deep inside a religion that, for decades, has been the subject of fierce debate and speculation worldwide.

Piercing the veil of secrecy that has long shrouded the world of Scientology, this insider reveals unprecedented firsthand knowledge of the religion, its obscure rituals, and its mysterious leader—David Miscavige. From her prolonged separation from her parents as a small child to being indoctrinated to serve the greater good of the Church, from her lack of personal freedoms to the organization's emphasis on celebrity recruitment, Jenna goes behind the scenes of Scientology's oppressive and alienating culture, detailing an environment rooted in control in which the most devoted followers often face the harshest punishments when they fall out of line. Addressing some of the Church's most notorious practices in startling detail, she also describes a childhood of isolation and neglect—a childhood that, painful as it was, prepared her for a tough life in the Church's most devoted order, the Sea Org.

Despite this hardship, it is only when her family approaches dissolution and her world begins to unravel that she is finally able to see the patterns of stifling conformity and psychological control that have ruled her life. Faced with a heartbreaking choice, she mounts a courageous escape, but not before being put through the ultimate test of family, faith, and love. At once captivating and disturbing, Beyond Belief is an eye-opening exploration of the limits of religion and the lengths to which one woman went to break free. goodreads

Reviewer's note: I do not believe in Scientology. I didn't before this book and I sure as hell don't after this book. This review is biased because of that. I refer to things in this "religion" as weird, crazy, and absolutely nuts at time. I'm a Wog. If you are a Scientologist, I don't recommend reading this. I promise, it is not for you!

Review: Things I knew about Scientology before reading this book:

1. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist.
2. Tom Cruise is a weirdo.
3. Celebrities pay a lot of money to be Scientologists.
4. It is a 'religion.'
5. There are some scandals revolving around it but I'm not entirely sure what they are.

Needless to say, I didn't know much but was extremely interested in getting a sneak peek into this way of life. Similar to how I'm weirdly interested in Warren Jeffs and all of his creepy crazy beliefs. This book sounded like just the thing to satisfy those weird interests.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. This book was very difficult to get through. Yes, I learned a lot more about Scientology and it's beliefs but I was more interested in the true story of someone who has been through it.  This story is told through the eyes of Jenna who experienced all of these weird things and the girl is definitely not a writer. An editor somewhere should have helped her out. Any editor. At any time. Anything!!!

This book was very boring. Jenna goes into explicit details about the crazy requirements of Scientology and how she maneuvered her way through them. Unfortunately, the story focuses more on the aspects of the "religion" and the different things they were required to do rather than Jenna's feelings and experiences with them. Yes, she describes these things (most of the time repeatedly in various sections of the books) as she goes through them but its very dry and she sounds like a robot going through it rather than a little girl. The various details about the auditing and levels were very detailed and intricate and I could see why she would include them in order to explain some of it but it was so far gone on the crazy train it just became extraneous.

I did enjoy getting to see how Jenna became disillusioned with the religion and broke free. It's completely understandable to me that it took her so long to do so. We have to remember that she was brainwashed essentially, and removed from the outside world. This crazy was her reality and she didn't know any better. I give her credit for starting to question things as soon as she got a little more info and I understand how it took her so long to get out.

One of the final issues I have with this book was that in the title, Jenna refers to her "harrowing escape." Um, I may have missed the harrowing escape part of the story. Her husband and her left on their own free will, everyone knew, and the scientologists even packed up their stuff and delivered it to them. I kept waiting for them to get caught, dragged back to the religion, and then have to really escape. That never happened. A little misleading if you ask me...

If you want a detailed description of some of the aspects of Scientology, this book is for you. If you want to see brainwashing in action, this book is for you. If you want to connect with a person and her experiences through her story, this book is not really for you. If you are interested in more of the secret inner-workings of Scientology, this book is not really for you. If you don't like very dry, badly written stories, this book is not really for you. What I'm trying to say is, this book wasn't really for me.

On the bright side, I did learn why Suri Cruise is such an odd child. Scientologists believe that children are fully formed adults just put into a child's body so they treat them like tiny adults. If you know anything about psychology, you know this is false and very damaging to a child. Suri Cruise finally makes a little bit of sense. Poor kid.

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