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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing testimony about a childhood destroyed
I must state up front that I came to this book because I am critical of the scientology organisation.

At least I have a choice of books to read, entirely unlike the way that the author had no choice about belonging to the elite group of the scientology organisation, the "Sea Organisation." Before signing a contract for a duration of one billion years at the age...
Published 22 months ago by Jens Tingleff

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but there are better places to start reading about scientology
I got this on audio book, having been meaning to read it for quite some time. Firstly, the reading was good - no problems there.

There is some interesting information in the book, and perhaps it gives a little more (though not much) insight into the workings of David Miscavige's mind. In the end though, despite the fact that what Jenna went through was awful,...
Published 4 months ago by Mike N


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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing testimony about a childhood destroyed, 6 Feb 2013
By 
Jens Tingleff (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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I must state up front that I came to this book because I am critical of the scientology organisation.

At least I have a choice of books to read, entirely unlike the way that the author had no choice about belonging to the elite group of the scientology organisation, the "Sea Organisation." Before signing a contract for a duration of one billion years at the age of seven, she had been in the care of the organisation full time since she was five (seeing one or both of her parents for half a day most weekends, no more), in a "Ranch" for "Cadets" - a residentil facility off in the rugged countryside in California.

To me, the most important part of the book is the first part where the author describes what it was like to be treated as an adult and kept under a strict regime (from the age of five). Apart from half a day per week set aside for being with their parents, every one of the hours in their day was defined for the children (with hard physical labour accounting for the mornings). While the hard labour was bad enough, to me the worst part was the thought reform. The kids were policing themselves, denouncing bad actions / attitudes to the adults, with offenders accumulating demerits which had to worked off until normal status could be attained. Failure to comply could cause humiliation in front of the entire group. In this way, no rebellious child stayed rebellious for long. To an outsider this regime seems little different from re-education camps, but what makes the book chilling is that it all happened to a five year old and is told from that viewpoint. The organisation appears to have been shy about its treatment of the children, keeping them away from outside contractors and making sure that they were scrubbed and appeared to be carefree and happy on the rare occasions that their parents saw them.

When she was twelve years old, the author learned that the organisation was punishing her mother for having had an affair. The author was very disappointed in herself. She knew that she should stop loving her mother, but she just couldn't do it - no matter how much she wanted to hate her mother she just could not.

The second part of the book is the description of how the author went from the childrens' camp to the actual "Sea Organisation" (described by spokesman Tommy Davis as "a crew of tough sons of ....") at the age of twelve years old. This did not make her the youngest member. This story is disturbing in its own right, if not told as rarely as the story of "The Ranch" above. The author grew up wholely convinced that she wanted to do everything to help the elite group further the goals of scientology, finally going so far as to refuse - at the age of eighteen - to leave when her parents left (the parents stayed scientologists but left the Sea Organisation).

Happily, the author managed to escape and is today reunited with some of her family (most of her immediate family and her grandfather having left the organisation) and she has a lovely family married to the husband with whom she escaped. The website she started together with two other former child members is still going strong.

While there are many books published in many countries detailing the more or less harrowing details of life inside the scientology organisation, this one is interesting for being right up to date and for giving an intimate view inside the childrens' camps of scientology. It complements the broader but less intimate Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief and the much more scholarly The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion rather than replace them (and vice versa).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic tale beyond belief, 9 Feb 2013
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This has been a very interesting read giving an insight in to a child and young adult who grew up in the Church of Scientology. Jenna life seems a mix of being blessed by being related to the leader of the church of scientology while at the same time cursed by it too. On the one hand she gets to experience life in the highest echelons of the church of scientology while on the other she's made to do hard labour for long hours. Recommended reading for anyone curious about the church of scientology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out standing insite to a cold and calculating world., 30 Oct 2013
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A bit hard going at times but we'll worth the read. The title says it all but still the "church" continues. Evil comes in many guises.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 10 Mar 2013
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My curiosity and disbelief as to how Scientology worked was answered with this shocking story. I wish I could understand how any sane person could believe that this cult was any kind of good force. A fantastic read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest, truthful and revealing account, 8 Mar 2013
By 
Ms. Kayte Power (UK) - See all my reviews
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Considering the repercussions many ex scientologists are exposed to and also her personal links.This is a brave and open account
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 29 Oct 2013
This book is excellent, gripping and very disturbing. Jenna speaks from the heart, and in detail, about the realities of growing up having your every movement, thought and emotion monitored. Read it, tell your friends, tell your kids, and their friends...and never be afraid to live your own life.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but there are better places to start reading about scientology, 28 Aug 2014
By 
I got this on audio book, having been meaning to read it for quite some time. Firstly, the reading was good - no problems there.

There is some interesting information in the book, and perhaps it gives a little more (though not much) insight into the workings of David Miscavige's mind. In the end though, despite the fact that what Jenna went through was awful, she seems to have had it better than most in this strange cult, largely due to fears from the "church" that she would cause PR problems if they handled her badly.

It's certainly worth reading, though I would recommend you start elsewhere. My Billion Year Contract, Memoir of a Former Scientologist is very good. I believe Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard is also worth a read and I purchased that yesterday on kindle for only 99p.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BRAVELY WRITTEN, a massive achievement, 11 Aug 2014
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Terrific book bravely written. Any kind of spiritual, or other abuse follows the same patterns, and it is very interesting reading, whether you are trapped by your 'church' elders, or any kind of heirarchical system, where the power and ego gets a hold, this can bless you and give you the courage you need to take an honest look at the organisation you belong to, and assess your situation, and whether it is true. A great read. I was sorry when it came to the end. Thank you Jenna Miscavage Hill. You are an inspiration, and will help many.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Scientology - Run for your life (and sanity), 27 Dec 2014
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Really enjoyed this book. I (like everyone else I suspect) have seen documentaries and read various articles on Scientology over the years. This really was an eye opener and the whole 'set-up' is a lot worse than I imagined. Scientology appears to be more about control, money and reeling in various celebs to network and hob nob with each other. I suspect there are lots of 'auditing' files in a locked safe somewhere to keep any 'wayward' celebs in line and keep the money coming in. I couldn't put this book down.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape" - Jenna Miscavige Hill ****, 23 April 2013
"Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape" - Jenna Miscavige Hill ****

This is the story of Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of the head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, who took over after the death of its founder, L Ron Hubbard.

Hill presents Scientology as a system which places no value on love, emotion or family bonds. As a child, her parents made the decision to join the Sea Org, which is a division of Scientology a bit like a religious order or missionary sector. From here on, she rarely saw her parents, being cared for by a series of other adults. (Her parents rarely saw each other either) In this way, she regularly had her need for security and regularity undermined. Because leaving was never discussed, Hill didn't know her brother tried for years to leave.

Aged just 7, Hill was made to sign a trillion-year contract committing herself to Scientology for lifetime after lifetime.

Within Scientology, children are seen as adults inside young bodies, and are expected to carry adult responsibilities. Full-time commitment to Scientology does not allow for childhood, depriving its children of time for play, of trust among friends and of regular guardians.

Hill was sent to 'The Ranch' where children of all ages were expected to spend half the day labouring at renovating and enlarging the property. There was some regular schooling, but eventually Hill found herself two years behind where she should have been, because the study of Scientology took priority over everything else. This education and way of life totally cuts children off from other ways of thinking.

Hill explains that Scientologists do not believe in taking medication for sickness, so that for the most part, the children were not treated medically when ill unless the case was very serious.

Scientology's system of learning seems bizarre to an outsider. Sea Org cadets memorised huge chunks of L Ron Hubbard's teaching and regulations, by staring at them on a wall for an hour. They had to do so without coughing or moving, and had to be able to recite them without hesitiation. Hesitating or making an error when reading, or forgetting when reciting was taken to mean that you misunderstood the meaning of a word. E-meters (lie-detectors) are used to ensure that every word that is read is understood, even simple ones such as 'and' or 'to'. Forgetting or stumbling over words that are not truly understood is meant to be the root of all stupididty.

The training routines seen in the movie "The Master" (on adults), such as staring at a partner without blinking, or not flinching at insults, are confirmed here. Hill says that the insults directed at her during this excercise also included sexual taunting, which she was taught not to react to emotionally. Scientology teaches detachment from emotions, problems and the past, including past lifetimes.

Auditing is a confidential process in which involves being asked questions about your life while connected to the e-meter, to uncover which aspects of teaching have not been fully understood, and areas where progress can be improved with more courses. The objective is to "clear" all humanity of such blockages of negativity, which will bring about peace.

However often auditing is presented as interrogation. Auditors are trained to physically prevent auditees from leaving the room. The result seems to be that every thought is passed by the e-meter, revealed and discussed in a way worse than having a father confessor. Hill shows that auditing is invasive, leaving children and adults without the privacy of even their own thoughts. Another example of this intrusiveness, is that at the Sea Org boot camp everyone has to write out their life history, which is expected to include their credit card details, details of drug use, and all sexual experiences, including instances of masturbation, and homosexual behaviour.

While audits are confidential, security checks are not. A Scientologist will be subjected to a security check any time that they exhibit rebellious behaviour, disagreeing with teachers, not co-operating with teaching or auditing, trying to leave, or if a relative tries to leave. They can be repeatedly questionned with the e-meter for hours at a time. If one person speaks out or leaves, the whole family is demoted and communication severed.

When Jenna met her future husband within the church, it was only her rebellion that prevented them from being seperated. Her family wanted to be absolutely sure that he wouldn't embarass them, that he was a Scientologist through and through, and not related to anyone potentially embarassing. The couple were under a tremendous amount of pressure not to have sex before they were married, but their marriage was delayed by the church for so long, that eventually they no longer cared and went ahead. But as Sea Org members, they would not be permitted to have children, something Jenna wasn't sure about.

When they finally married, it wasn't long before they were sent to Australia as missionaries, with an impossible task ahead of them. When they enquired as to how long they were expected to stay for, they were told the position was permanent, which they rebelled against.

It seems that what kept Hill from leaving was her husband's desire to remain a public Scientologist afterwards. She was sick of the security checks and refused to take them, but if they left without going through the security checks required of all leaving members (to make sure they wouldn't sully the church's name), they would no longer be Scientologists and would not be allowed to see their family, who were still part of the church.

The official response to this book, from the church said that it does "not engage in any activities that mistreat or force children to engage in manual labour. The church follows all laws with respect to children. Claims to the contary are false." *

"It says that it always respects family units and that Jenna's recollections are at odds with those of many of her contemporaries who are still in the church." **

Scientology seems to have many failings. It involves a rigid hierarchy where members of each level are discouraged from speaking with those of other levels. The higher levels are veiled in total secrecy. Sea Org membership involves absolute isolation from non-Scientologists (WOGS - and I don't buy that this word is meant to mean "Well and Orderly Gentlemen") and non-Sea Org members.

It's numerous bases, centres and divisions, particularly its famous 'Celebrity Centre' are displays of ostentatious wealth, unlike any other religious organisation. How can they not be charging their members a fortune? The organisation has even constructed a giant mansion, 'Bonne View' - built to house L Ron Hubbard when he 'returns'. Why would a real religious leader value wealth in this way?

L Ron Hubbard meticulously outlined how everything should be done, publishing massive handbooks for each level of learning, and every role, even specifying how to clean everything and in what order, revealing an over controlling man with apparent delusions of grandeur.

This isn't a particularly well written book. There are frequent editing oversights, and too much unnecessary celebrity name-dropping. It would've been helpful if the glossary was more comprehensive. Scientology's use of jargon and acronyms is claustrophobic in itself and makes the book hard to follow at times. It is sometimes oppressive, but always fascinating. I read the whole thing over two days.

I was left wondering whether this book represents just one person's bad experience, or whether we can assume it is indicative of the church as a whole.

Is this just another example of the abuse that goes on in every religion, in a minority of cases?

For a start, Hill is not writing about 'public Scientology' but specifically the 'hardcore section' Sea Org. She points out that she is repeatedly accused of abusing her position as a member of the Miscavige family - but it seems to me that she had an especially hard time precisely because of who she is. At one point, Hill is made to change name so that her connection would be concealed. Naturally, given what was at stake, her family would not want anything to embarrass the church's leader. Perhaps they were over-controlling. But this doesn't necessarily reflect how others at the church are treated.

However, despite the church's official response, failure to honour the family unit is an accusation echoed in plenty of cases other than Jenna's.

Particularly if interest to me was that Hill's accusations of homophobia within the church are confirmed by the very public departure of one of its well-known members. In 2009, director, producer and writer Paul Haggis quit Scientology after 35 years because the church wouldn't support gay marriage. But then other religions are still coming to terms with this issue too.

While I don't think she can speak for the whole of Scientology, it is cases like this which lead me to believe that most of what Hill says is likely to be true. Certainly as an individual she was abused and the programmes designed to help others were misused on her. From the accounts of other ex-Sea Org members, we can presume that other children suffered.

What matters is that the head of the Church of Scientology is capable of involvement with this kind of behaviour - regardless of whether it is directed at an individual or a group.

I will be staying well away

[...]
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