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The Church of Fear Audiobook

The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology

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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (153 )
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Performance
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  •  
    David 16/07/2015
    David 16/07/2015 Member Since 2013
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    "Truly Bonkers"
    Any additional comments?

    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!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    iris Paris, France 11/06/2015
    iris Paris, France 11/06/2015 Member Since 2015
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    "Love the subject; less impressed by narration"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dallas Winston 9 East Yorkshire 08/02/2017
    Dallas Winston 9 East Yorkshire 08/02/2017 Member Since 2017
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    "Scientology is worse than a War Zone!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Church of Fear to be better than the print version?

    Yes, the text was personal to the narrator, who was also the author, so you could tell how personal the whole situation became. How he and Scientology were at war with one another was good, though it was such a aristocratic war I couldn't help but laugh at how pompous they all were at times.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This is a personal account so I'd have to say Sweeney. Paranoid at times, angry at others he was also genuine and passionate, if a little dorky now and again. He knew his subject well and was able to highlight how he struggled during some interviews, what he had to deal with who can blame him, but he also used hindsight effectively to elevate his arguments later on. Just for the record, I think he won the war of words.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes. John Sweeney drew on research effectively he described the scenes vividly.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were some moments of shock for me. I could also understand why John became so angry.


    Any additional comments?

    The book is basically exploration of Scientology as a cult. It highlights how the system works, mind control, mental prisons etc it covers what scientologist believe, that is, if you can believe what they believe, it's a bit out there. It was a informative listen. Though I would like to have heard him interview Scientologists from a wider range of people. enjoyed this listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea O. 04/07/2016
    Andrea O. 04/07/2016 Member Since 2015
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    "Captivating Listen"

    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! ;)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Simon G Bell 07/10/2015 Member Since 2017
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    "Insights into fear and moral capture"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John!


    How could the performance have been better?

    Less emotion in the read.


    Was The Church of Fear worth the listening time?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    I wonder how many other institutions could be approached as employing BW in the subtle form. I would like to read more about that.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Antony 09/09/2015
    Antony 09/09/2015 Member Since 2017
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    "Fascinating"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eamon Green Newark, UK 16/07/2015
    Eamon Green Newark, UK 16/07/2015 Member Since 2017
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    "An mind-blowing and compelling insight"
    If you could sum up The Church of Fear in three words, what would they be?

    Compelling, insightful, provocative


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Church of Fear?

    Mike Rinder's interview with John Sweeney after exiting the church.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The car chase.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Y.S.C.O.H.B


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dee Gee Peterborough, UK 24/02/2016
    Dee Gee Peterborough, UK 24/02/2016 Member Since 2014
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    "It's my turn to speak now"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew London, United Kingdom 04/09/2015
    Matthew London, United Kingdom 04/09/2015 Member Since 2011
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    "The Emporer's new clothes"

    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 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mr 06/11/2016
    mr 06/11/2016 Member Since 2015
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    "Disappointed"
    Any additional comments?

    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,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Graeme
    Sydney, Australia
    29/05/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • C. Shafer
    Colorado Springs, CO
    27/01/16
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    "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 ..

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • DJM
    Franklin, TN USA
    26/01/16
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    "Frankly, A Bit Tedious"

    Listen to/read the book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" before tackling this book. "Going Clear" will give you a solid background into the history of LRH and the Church as well as several of the higher-ups, places and activities described in Church of Fear. I say the book is tedious to listen to because Sweeney spends much of the book reading transcripts of his interviews where people are constantly interrupting one another and speaking in sentence fragments. These interviews would be difficult to follow if you could see the different people talking. When it's just Sweeney reading all the parts it's a mess. If you have some background with the story of Scientology it will make some sense. If you are not familiar with the COS then it will simply be incredibly confusing.

    I gave it three stars which is probably generous. I did that because what does come through is just how disturbing this experience was for Sweeney. Sweeney comes off as very authenticate. If Sweeney had made an effort to provide his readers/listeners some context for the Church and the interviews it probably would have worked. As it was, I'm sorry I wasted a credit even though I purchased it on the 3 for 2 deal.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Rabid Readers Reviews
    Ontario
    15/09/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting look into a secretive religion..."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    "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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John Sweeney was a favorite in his no holds barred quest for the truth.


    Have you listened to any of John Sweeney’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not. In "Church of Fear" Sweeney was energetic and fired by his convictions which made for a fascinating listen.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "You can join but you can never leave."


    Any additional comments?

    “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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Count B
    25/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "CHURCH OF FEAR IS WHAT IT IS!"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    04/07/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tracy
    29/06/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "In-depth, Insightful, Informative"
    Any additional comments?

    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?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • lovena
    US
    14/05/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very insightful"

    Very informative, well researched and a must read! I feel bad for what John Sweeney had to go through but very thankful that he continued with his research and shed light on Scientology.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Cheryl
    03/04/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Scary look into cult"

    Great job John Sweeney! You braved a journey most would fear to make. A truth seeker does not a bigot make

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Christina
    18/03/16
    Overall
    "very interesting and informative "

    a bit hard to follow at times, but very good. nice to hear about specific people and circumstances.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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