Inside Scientology Promises a Lot, and Delivers

David Miscavige Has Much to Worry About

Also impressive, in the last quarter of her book, Reitman takes us inside "Int," the secretive headquarters of Scientology which is in the Southern California desert. If you've read Marc Headley's excellent escape narrative, Blown for Good, you'll be familiar with the austerity, secrecy, and oppressive nature of what it's like to work at "Gold," another name for the desert base. But Reitman brought this reviewer nearly to tears with a story of escape from the base that I wasn't familiar with.

Reitman's telling of the story of Stefan and Tanja Castle is worth the price of the entire book. The young couple worked at Int, where marriages can be very difficult to maintain under Scientology's stringent and bizarre rules that limit free time or freedom of movement. Tanja had found herself working personally with Miscavige, who likes to surround himself with attractive female underlings. Over time, Stefan resented how little he got to see his wife, but he knew that to air his feelings would be dangerous. Eventually, he did say something to Miscavige's (now vanished) wife Shelly about how little he got to see Tanja. He soon found himself in Los Angeles sentenced to the RPF, Scientology's infamous quasi-prison corps, where he would spend two years doing menial labor. Tanja, meanwhile, was pressured to divorce her husband.

Things got worse for Stefan, who eventually "blew" -- Scientology jargon for defecting -- and then tried to reunite with his wife, who was put under even more pressure to divorce her husband. How Stefan, with the help of the Headleys, eventually did get word to her and then plotted a late night escape -- well, if someone doesn't turn Reitman's book into multiple movies, it will be crime.


Inside Scientology
By Janet Reitman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
464 pp., $28

At the end of the book, Reitman comes back to the young woman, Natalie Walet, who is happy with Scientology. She writes her ending almost as a direct appeal to Miscavige: if Scientology's diminutive leader cannot find a way to keep young people like Natalie happy not only with her religion, but also equipped to deal with all of the negative information about it, and somehow, to handle the doubts of the many Scientologists who are leaving or considering it, then the church may be doomed.

Given that conclusion, Reitman's choice of material makes a lot of sense. I think she genuinely hopes that current members of Scientology will read her book and reflect on where their organization has been. (In reality, the small number of remaining Scientologists will probably be instructed not to read the book by Miscavige's ever-vigilant operatives.)

More importantly, the large number of people who still don't know what Scientology is, despite decades of exposes and critical websites and South Park episodes and mountains of newspaper articles and blog posts, will have, in one book, a stunning overview of everything from L. Ron Hubbard's childhood in the 1920s to Marty Rathbun's anti-Miscavige blog that currently is giving the church leader serious heartburn.

In Inside Scientology, we have a thorough, brave journalist backed by a major publisher, and soon what no doubt will be a major publicity push: Reitman's book should soon become Scientology's biggest headache in years.


Read Tony Ortega's interviewwith Janet Reitman.
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