In the News – Heathens, Hymns, and Holy Men

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

Taking Scientology Seriously

An interview with Janet Reitman, author of Inside Scientology: The History of America’s Most Secretive Religion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2011)

By Amy Levin

It was fifteen minutes of fantastic and totally outlandish claims, and yet each testimonial was presented in such a reasonable way that in spite of myself, I felt kind of hopeful. ~ Janet Reitman, “Introduction,” Inside Scientology

Janet Reitman’s new book, Inside Scientology: The History of America’s Most Secretive Religion, represents her attempt to take seriously what may be the most controversial New Religious Movement of our time. Scientology, as Reitman tells us, means “the study of truth,” and the word itself has a seductive, even philosophical, ring to it. What Reitman’s book tells us, though, is that beginning with the publication of L. Ron Hubbard’s best-selling book, Dianetics, and his visionary moment in 1952, when Scientology itself began to take shape, the religion, as it came to be known, eventually grew into a “global spiritual enterprise that trades in a product called ‘spiritual freedom.’”

How did you get involved in this project, and how did your coverage of Scientology begin?

I first got involved in Scientology reporting back in July of 2005, with an article I did for Rolling Stone, and spent nine months researching and writing that story. Towards the end of that period I went to California and had a three-day interview with Church officials who, after many months, granted me this kind of special access. They had been very resistant for a long time in talking to us, and I wanted not just to sit down for interviews, but to tour the facilities – I wanted the whole thing. Continue Reading →