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GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (review)

going_clear_scientology_and_the_prison_of_beliefGOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF

Directed by Alex Gibney

I’ve always had a rather vague, distorted view of what Scientology is about. It’s that crazy Hollywood cult that has something to do with aliens and that kidnapped Katie Holmes. This is an admittedly uninformed opinion but now that I’ve seen Alex Gibney’s latest documentary, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, I now know that my completely baseless understanding of the supposed religion wasn’t that far off base after all.

Gibney bravely goes where most have never dared in his in-depth expose. Granted, most haven’t gone there because the Church of Scientology is notorious for exacting repercussions on those that dare to defy or denounce them publicly. This is what makes GOING CLEAR such a vital film. What makes it great though is how fascinating it is. Not only is Gibney brave but he is thorough and incredibly compelling as well, maintaining an air of fairness and objectivity at all times, despite not having any formal response from current members of the church.

75

The Church of Scientology has a rich and complex history and Gibney takes us back to its roots to try to better understand its teachings and practices. Founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was a science fiction writer who rose to fame when he published the wildly successful book, Dianetics, which describes a system that he would later adapt into Scientology’s main practice, auditing. Auditing is a paid service the church offers its constituents in which they divulge painful experiences in their lives with the goal of removing the power these experiences have over their lives so that they can become their truly realized selves. The process leads to “going clear” and it is also somehow monitored electronically.

It is obviously far more complex than this but complexity is what makes Scientology so successful, not to mention profitable. Scientologists believe life is eternal and spans lifetimes, meaning some of the memories that are worked through may stem back from previous life experiences. In order to get closer and closer to your truly realized self, one must invest thousands of dollars and years of their lives advancing through the many stages of understanding. One former Scientologist recalls in the film how it cost her between $200K and $300K, and took 7-8 years of her life, to reach the level where the true belief system the church is based upon was revealed to her. When she learned this had to do with a galactic overlord named Xenu, you can surely understand her dismay.

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Gibney covers almost everything you would expect him to in GOING CLEAR. Through interviews with several outspoken ex-members of the church, including some former high ranking members, he looks at allegations of kidnapping, torture and extortion. He looks at how highly visible members of the church, like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, turn a blind eye to the atrocities going on behind the scenes to remain in favour rather than do the responsible thing and expose them to the public. He even looks at how the church tears family and friends apart all so that it can continue its reign of dominance and profiteering. In fact, the only reason Scientology is even recognized as a religion is because the IRS deemed it as such (after the church members flooded the IRS with frivolous lawsuits as a means to blackmail them into according them the tax exempt status). This makes calling the Church of Scientology an actual church an incredible stretch and GOING CLEAR brings all of this into brilliant focus.

4.5 sheep

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