So far the books related to Scientology I have read have been all written from the perspective of Americans as you’d expect with Scientology being what could be argued something that could only come out of America.
The Church of Scientology although today deemed to be relatively small in number do have a presence in other parts of the world. In Britain it has the base of Saint Hill in West Sussex for esample. After reading about how the Church of Scientology affected the lives of its own members and critics in the United States I wanted to know how people from outside the US perceived them. Should you ever look it up there are many commentaries and observations from other areas. It is the British perspective of Scientology that I would like to take a look at however, mainly for the reason that it is easier for me being British. It appears that for all the good intentions presented by the Church and its well known supporters, there seems to be many more critics. While I’m sure there have been people who have benefited from the Church (Tom Cruise being the most famous), it is hard to avoid the fact that there are many more people out there who have not benefited at all.
Among the British commentaries, there was a British interview (Links in the comments) of L Ron Hubbard himself done by Granada in the sixties. Louis Theroux made his own documentary about the Scientology and there has been writers such as John Atack who wrote about his time with Scientology.
There is however, one famous commentator from the UK who was made famous for shouting at a Scientology rep which was filmed and taken advantage of by the Church itself. John Sweeney when doing a documentary for BBC’s Panorama would have his own experience of what it would be like to confront the Church of Scientology. Sweeney’s book is remarkable in that though not at the same level as with Paulette Cooper, we read about the ruthless tactics used to scupper John Sweeney’s making of the documentary and the harassment he received. Other known commentators such Marc and Claire Headley, Russell Miller and Amy Scobee all feature in John Sweeney’s book (for those of you in the loop, these are well known critics/survivors of the Church)
The Church of Fear introduces readers to what Scientology along with how it was founded and how it has affected the lives of its victims. The most fascinating story being John Sweeney’s confrontation with the Scientology reps Tommy Davies and a certain Mike Rinder in 2007. As John would later mention in the book, Mike Rinder himself defects from the Church and becomes one of its biggest critics. There is even an albeit staged interview with a famous celebrity Scientologist who would later work with Mike Rinder on her show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath of which John Sweeney would later appear. It is fascinating that in some way, Sweeney helped in Mike Rinder himself defecting
John Sweeney pulls no punches on what he thinks about Scientology, how they pestered him and there is a real feel that there is no love lost in Sweeney’s passionate style of writing and what he thought of his experiences. For any of you who are familiar with what Scientology is and what it does you will already have an awareness of things John Sweeney is referring to (Narconon for example and the RPF for example) but for everyone else it would be hard to believe that such an organisation with its celebrity followers would be how Sweeney describes them. If you can ever find a copy of John Sweeney’s documentary, give it a watch it will help in picturing what Sweeney is describing in the book.
What must be noted is that though John Sweeney is writing things that may come across as a bit far fetched about the organisation, it is not unprecedented and many more books have been written since that mirror Sweeney’s own observations. Take from that what you will. Although L Ron Hubbard created something at first that people could take solace in, it has become something if not different, incredibly domineering as it has been perceived by many observers.