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Arts & Culture

Lawrence Wright paints a troubling portrait of Scientology

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Messiah or con man? L. Ron Hubbard after seeing the dentist.

The space-opera of Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy is now the stuff of South Park infamy, but Scientology holds no monopoly on fantastic beliefs. Religions formed millennia ago have the benefit of foundation myths shrouded in mystery and traditions that echo into the current day, while Scientology is a religion of the information age. Would the Virgin birth have survived the ridicule of the blogosphere? Would Mohammad's journey to the heavens on his mystical steed, the Buraq, have withstood probing from investigative journalists?

Scientology is a religion so insular that battered ex-members, like Debbie Cook, provide the best snapshots of its inner workings, and Wright uses their stories to compile an unauthorized account of Scientology with the skill you'd expect from a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.

For a short time, Cook spilled Scientology's secrets here. Eventually she settled out of court – neither she nor the church got a cent – and last summer left San Antonio for a French island in the Caribbean, a place untouched by the church or its influence.

Under her settlement, Cook will never again speak of the Church of Scientology. To anyone. Ever.

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