Nov 21 2016
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape – Jenna Miscavige Hill
One of the strongest desires of humans is the desire to “belong.” This is evidenced in many ways; identifying by race, joining clubs to share common interests, supporting political movements, belonging to fraternities and sororities, cheering on the local sports team, to mention just a few. One of the most common of these is religion.
It can be difficult to define religion. Generally speaking, I define it as a system of belief in something that cannot be confirmed by science and that must be taken as truth by faith. Usually this relies on belief in some supernatural entity, but it is not required. What is required is an unquestioning acceptance of the tenets of the religion.
I have been aware of Scientology through the popular media, but have never looked at it more closely. I thought that this book, written by someone who had been literally raised in Scientology, would give me an insight into that “religion.” It did, and left me with déjà vu wonder at what people will believe and accept in the name of religion.
The author is the niece of David Miscavige, who is the current head of the Church of Scientology. This book does not act as a history or analysis of the Church of Scientology, but rather as the personal story of a child reared in the church, up through the time she left the church. As I was reading it, I found myself thinking that this sounded like a child being raised in a third-world country where child labor is a normal part of everyday life.
As the author obviously has a vested interest in the story, I tried to maintain some skepticism while reading it. I found myself wondering about parts of her story, but I had to remind myself that I have never been in the kind of situation she was in. She goes back and forth, at points being supportive of the things she was going through and then rebelling in the next breath. In the end, this story could be that of many children raised within a restrictive religion, with religious teachings enforced through many different psychological and physical means. I’m grateful that I was never put into this kind of situation and would never, have never, considered putting a child of mine in such circumstances.
While this book is not necessarily riveting reading, the insight into the treatment of people within the Church of Scientology is revealing. Is it worse than other religions? Well, at least they are not out blowing people up. Still, that doesn’t mean I’ll be signing up any time soon, and I’m sorry to see that a child could be put into such circumstances as the author was.