Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree.
Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on, and followed, and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera, and his infamous 'exploding tomato' clip was seen by millions around the world.
In The Church of Fear, Sweeney tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind's problems.
This is the real story of the Church by the reporter who was brave enough to take it on.
John Sweeney is a reporter for BBC Panorama. He is the author of six previous books including the novel Elephant Moon.
©2013 John Sweeney (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
"A bold and swashbuckling reporter...let him shout: at least he shouts the truth." (Mail on Sunday)
"Gripping." (The Economist)
"A brave book." (Liverpool Daily Post)
"Blackly comic." (The Humanist)
I love history, crime and thrillers, biographies and almost anything by the BBC.
The relevations in this book of scientology are really fascinating and it is hard to believe the nonsense to which people are not only prepared to adhere but to pay vast sums of money not to mention the fact they can cut themselves off from family and friends. It was well-researched too. What I found rather irritating was the author's constant overuse of certain expressions such as 'creepy' or 'strange' and his similies also tended to be way over the top. His writing is full of hyperbole and on many occasions he cannot resist his own self-aggrandisement which is tiresome - his high IQ, his string of dangerous assignments. His voice is more suited to doing voice-over on images and it should have been toned down for audio reading where the relationship with the reader is more intimate. I do believe, in spite of my criticisms, that he is on the whole sincere in his wish to expose the 'church' as a sect or cult.
This is a great insight into a truly bonkers world. Although John Sweeney makes it clear that there was much more that could have gone into the book, due to the litigious nature of the church the content was restricted. For me, this actually worked really well as it made the book far more powerful and personal because everything was based on hard, in your face evidence.
And John, don't feel bad about exploding like a tomato, I thought you were really rather restrained!
Compelling, insightful, provocative
Mike Rinder's interview with John Sweeney after exiting the church.
The car chase.
A fascinating insight into the alleged dangerous cult of Scientology which causes one to reflect on what drives people to believe such outragous beliefs and demonstrates the need to teach ourselves and our kids the importance of critical thinking.
It left me wanting more and wondering if we are about to witness the self-distruction of the Church of Scientology.
Wasn't particularly well written and there was SO much dialogue from emails, that doesn't translate well to audio. This subject means a lot to me, and overall it was pretty interesting, but the emails and Scige leaks made it boring,
I always wanted to know more about Scientology and now I do.
John Sweeney's first hand account of his interactions with the "church's" members is riveting. It is an excellent listen and many times I shouted aloud at how unbelievable some of his accounts were at how he and others were treated by scientologists.
Ironically this is the only audiobook I've ever had trouble downloading...and stopped working twice! They are controlling the book or a weak internet connection...hopefully the latter! ;)
I wouldn't like to listen to him narrate any other books.
Sweeney's performance is over the top, irritating and very distracting. I found it really annoying and this particular book would have better to read in print for that reason.
Yes, but with another narrator.
Interesting subject to cover but it was hard going because of Sweeney.
I know it sounds like an obvious thing to say, but whether this book is for you or not largely depends on what you expect to get out of it. If you are hoping for a detailed analysis of Scientology and its tenets, or a recounting of some of the more outlandish speculations regarding the church, you’ll leave feeling somewhat disappointed. And there are much better books for that, such as “The church of Scientology: A history of a new religion” here on audible.
What you do get is a very personal, wild and often darkly funny view of a reporter’s interactions with various members of said church, made all the more personal by the fact that the author is also the narrator. This is both good and bad. At times he gets so excited that he speaks very rapidly and his words run into each other with the same kind of frequency that he runs into members of the church. Consequently it can be difficult to follow. But you can’t help but get swept up in it all as he tries to deal with some really quite bizarre situations, and eventually just loses the plot completely.
There are also points where you feel the author is bending over backwards to appear to be fair whilst giving you a nudge or two - and a wink for good measure. Phrases like “they might have been from the church” really translate as “they were from the church. They know it. I know it. You know it. Your Uncle Tom knows it. But I’m from the BBC and I can’t prove it. So I’ll just throw a might in there. Balance achieved.” So although it includes interviews and comments from the Scientology side of the fence, it’s really a very one-sided piece.
The author also seems to take an absolute delight in trying to force any member of the church to say the word “cult”. At first it’s quite funny but after a while you sort of wonder what the point is. Mr Sweeney makes a compelling argument that they are a cult and is clearly firmly convinced that they are. But even if he had got one active member to agree, I’m not sure it would really prove much.
Overall I enjoyed the book, albeit with a certain sense of morbid fascination at some of the tales. However, I listened to it in small doses which I feel is possibly the best way. The excited narration can get a little overbearing during long listening sessions, particularly in the full-on arguments that devolve into two people just yelling the same thing at each other over and over again, or yelling it’s their turn to speak now.
It certainly gives an interesting and unique view of the church and some of its key members. It manages to be funny at times and heart wrenching at others when you hear some of the alleged (nudge, nudge) activities of the church. If the idea of such a personal view of Scientology appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend it.
Interesting listen but I think that authors really need to think before they decide to read their own stuff. John has a good voice but I would have preferred a more measured emotion on display. Got in the way.
Less emotion in the read.
Yes. There is a subtle story here about brain washing. Most people think it is like forcing a mind down tramlines. This would be obvious in a victim. In this church the BW is much more real and subtle. The idea is to make the victim internalise the message of the church and own it as their own ideas. They might say: "These are my ideas .. I just noticed that the church had them too". This is very powerful as a device to draw a mind in and orientate it to easy ideas to start with .. but then make the mix more potent. I can see how this is done in a gradual way and I think that Scientology is just an extreme form of mind control that we see all around us just about every day.
I wonder how many other institutions could be approached as employing BW in the subtle form. I would like to read more about that.
Whatever scientologists believe, and whether or not scientology is a cult, the real fascination for me is in the utterly unreasonable behaviour of Tommy Davis and his cronies in the way they relentlessly attack the Panorama team with illogical, hypocritical nonsense. John Seeeney snaps, but only long aftet the point where I - and most others - would have done.
Wonderful book. Sweeney has a manhood made of Brutish steel too take on this brainwashing cult.
the world can only improve with the death of religion, with these cults top of the list.
looking at the main character's lives now most have left the cult, the scam is laid bare for all too see.
I'd like Sweeney to tackle Catholicism next.
"2 sticks of Dynamite!"
Writer lost me early on after the claim that somebody stuck two sticks of dynamite up his nose. I went as far as Googling him, thinking he might have oversized nostrils. he doesn't. Performance is dreadful as well.
"North Korea undercover is much better"
I got this book because I found his book on north Korea to be eye opening.
This book is not nearly as good.
It reads like bad daytime TV and doesn't give you the feeling of objectivity.
I'm not a member of the organisation in question, nor have I ever been. But it's defenders in this book have a point: it does seem as if Sweeney came in knowing the story he wanted to tell, rather than attempting to find fact.
If he were interested in truth (rather than an exposé) then I believe he would have dealt with people differently.
In his defence, I'm not a journalist and maybe his approach is normal.
But it didn't sit well with me.
I've lived most audible books I've bought.
I'll be returning this one.
"The Church of Intimidation, Deviousness and Evil"
I would recommend choosing the audiobook over the printed version of "The Church of Fear" as you can hear in the authors own voice his mix of outrage, paranoia and sense of seemingly impending insanity as he details his encounters with this sinister religious scam. John Sweeney is the BBC journalist who went viral on YouTube in 2007 after he lost his temper in a shouting match with scientology (I refuse to capitalise this evil organisation's name) representative Tommy Davis. "The Church of Fear" details the behind the scenes tale of the making of BBC's documentary on scientology.
Unlike other recent books on scientology, particularly Janet Reitman's "Inside scientology", where the authors make a decent stab at impartiality, John Sweeney's book is deliciously biased, and to be fair, he's completely justified to take this approach - the evidence he presents of intimidation, spying, threats, "legal" bullying and psychological warfare perpetrated by scientology to scuttle the BBC documentary left him in a state of paranoia, confusion and awe at his subject's cunning and deviousness.
If you already know about the evils of the people running scientology then there's nothing new here, but the account of someone who finds themselves caught in a maze of despicable, tawdry and sinister behaviour makes this account well worth the listen / read. It will leave you wondering at the appalling cowardice of US government organisations like the IRS who continue to refuse to put scientology in its place - which should be a bizarre footnote of history, but instead continues to function as an untaxed business / scam started by a bad science fiction writer who has proved that vulnerable people will literally fall for the craziest stuff imaginable.
"Melodramatic and Repititive"
Sweeney largely telling the story in reading transcripts of interviews he did with the BBC. His "investigative journalism" comes down to making confrontational allegations and waiting for a dramatic response. Many of the so-called interviews end up being nothing more than childish arguments. "The church is a cult." "No it's not." Back and forth. For variety, Sweeney is repeatedly accused of being a bigot by church officials and the "No I'm not" and the "Yes you are" go on quite tediously. Have not watched too many BBC investigative series and Sweeney is most certainly not polished or sophisticated in his interviewing techniques. Really quite tedious. Listened with 90 minutes to go and finally resorted to searching the Internet for some context and found a couple of much shorter documentaries on line that summarized the issues neatly and to my satisfaction.
I would certainly not recommend this audio book to anyone.
"Informative but didn't like author"
This is very imaginative book. I'm not a fan of this author though. At times I had difficulty following along when her would go over past conversations. All in all though, a very good listen ..
"Interesting look into a secretive religion..."
"The Church of Fear" gives readers a little known look into a well known but little talked about religion in which members are secluded from the unbelieving family members and forced to pay exorbitant improvement fees. Scientology's cult status is clearly with each page.
John Sweeney was a favorite in his no holds barred quest for the truth.
I have not. In "Church of Fear" Sweeney was energetic and fired by his convictions which made for a fascinating listen.
"You can join but you can never leave."
“Church of Fear” by John Sweeney is a wonderfully interesting and informative read. If you’re interested in cults, human nature and organizational control pick the book up today and if you’re in the mood for a special treat, be sure the version you buy is the audio book.
"CHURCH OF FEAR IS WHAT IT IS!"
Scientology is a sick cult, the author spent many years on this story & takes you deep inside this sick cult of greed, power & misery. It will open for eyes & most certainly shock you that this criminal organisation can call itself a religion & damage so many peoples lives. A shocking true story that will captivate you.
"An eye opener. Thank you."
This is a great book with a thought-provoking message about religion and cults. Where is that line? Have we all grown tolerant of cult activities in our churches because we just got used to it? This extreme case of a cult should make us examine all our organized churches.
"In-depth, Insightful, Informative"
John Sweeney knocked this out of the park. The narration was magnificent! For anyone interested in an in-depth look at what many experience in the Church of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, and what it's like to 'blow', this is your book. Parts were heart breaking as families are torn to shreds. Most of it is frightening as the leadership of the church will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who dares to leave or defy it.
I've watched the videos of John Sweeney and the "going tomato" episode. I for one felt it was illustrated the tactics they use to break a person down. While Sweeney expresses regret at the melt down, I found it profoundly helpful in understanding how they work a person into utter madness. He didn't look like a madman, he looked like any one of us would in the same circumstance. But now that I've seen it, I feel it might actually have equipped me to manage such an encounter.
Sweeney asks the questions that have been going through my mind since reading Jenna Miscaviage-Hill's book AND Ron Miscaviage's recent release of his book, Ruthless. Both are terrific reads as well and had me asking, "How are Travolta and Cruise able to turn a blind eye to such atrocities in the name of their religion?" And How complicit are they?
After reading Sweeney's book, I'm all the more amazed at the courage it took for Leah Remini to leave so loudly. Her book, another terrific read by the way, is equally eye-opening and disturbing. As an outsider, I kept asking myself why people don't just surround David Miscaviage (literally surround him) and escort him right out the door on his keester. But then, I see the problem at the same time, they are set up to snitch on each other making collaboration a near impossibility.
This is a fascinating read all the way around. Troubling that this cult isn't shut right down here and now. But if people continue to rally and speak up, it's sure to crash at some point.
This still leaves me asking, Where is Shelly?
"Probably better in print"
This book is less of an in-depth expose on the inner workings of Scientology and more of an account of how the author was blocked from being able to do much of a real investigation at all, stalked, disparaged, and subjected to intimidating behavior. While that story is compelling and a nice compliment to books written by ex-Scientologists, it didn't translate well to audio format. Sweeney doesn't often distinguish between voices, which makes the frequent interviews and conversations in which people interrupt and talk over each other nearly indecipherable. I can't recommend the audio version for this reason.
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