Everything Else

The Church of Fear by John Sweeney – Review

     I have another old book review for you today, because to do a new one would require me to actually finish some books. Also, almost everything I’m reading at the moment is for my FYP. I’m going to have to write 10,000 words on those books later so I’m mildly reluctant to add more words in the form of a book review.

     This is quite a good book and I would recommend it. If you want something that shows both sides of the argument as being equal and lets you decide on the matter, then this book isn’t for you. Sweeney comes at the subject head on, attacking the ideas of the church and emphasising the cult aspects of it in a rather refreshing way. I would say that most people recognise that scientology has a lot of crazy beliefs and it was nice not to have to wade through a desperate attempt at making scientology sound plausible.

     Well, what I mean is you don’t have to read Sweeney attempting to be unbiased on the subject. You do get plenty of other people trying to deny the cultish side of scientology as Sweeney recounts the interviews he did with celebrities and leading members of the church. I’ve read some reviews of the book that comment on Sweeney’s bias and how it hindered his position on the topic, but as this book is an account of the making of the BBC Panorama program and not a history of the church, I think his bias is fine. It’s a personal account of what happened to him and so him taking an unbiased position would make the writing unnatural.

     Onto the contents of the book, there’s plenty of accounts of interviews with former members of the church to make you horrified at how people are treated when they give their lives up for it, interviews with celebrities that really do all sound the same, and tales of Sweeney and his crew being followed around and basically stalked by the cult (sorry, church). They are interesting stories, and reading the ones about family being separated and relationships being ruined are particularly heart-breaking. Scary really is a good word to describe the extent that the church goes to to ruin the lives of those who leave and speak out.

     Some parts of the book did feel a little bit repetitive and I think this slowed my reading down. As well, I was reading the kindle edition and there were quite a few typos that I found rather distracting. Sometimes I found sentences awkward and had to pause for a moment to make sense of them. I think the book could have benefited from a bit more proof-reading. Sometimes I found events difficult to follow because of the writing style and it would take me a few pages to get back into the feel of the book and this also slowed me down.

     Despite these few things though, I would still give the book a good rating. I haven’t read any other books on scientology and past the basics I’m not too knowledgeable on the history of the church, but you don’t need to know all that much about the background. This is a book about how the church treats members who disobey them and members who leave. It’s a good account of that, and by good I mean scary.

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