This book is well written and factual and without being biased against the Scientology Organization, traces it's path from an unlicensed psychotherapy in the 1950's, to legally recognized Religion, which to this day uses this cloaking to commit human enslavement and fraud. The closest "religion" to this one is the Occult, of which it shares Origins.
The premise of the whole book is that the scientology organisation poses an extreme example of the need to think before even asking the question "is scientology a religion?" The book sets out to describe specifically the changing notion of religion in the USA over the last 100 years and the way in which the scientology organisation has interacted with this notion throughout its history. By making the focus this narrow, many aspects that are of great interest have been left out, as the author emphasises, but the core subject is treated with great attention.
What makes this book a pleasant change from previous academic works is that it allows ex-members a voice. The official scientology organisation is heard, equally, but what is much more interesting to forming an independent opinion is that the founder, L Ron Hubbard, is quoted extensively. What makes Hubbard's quotes of interest is the change over time in the "official line" and the various reasons for it. As the author notes, Hubbard changed the official line most in periods of time where governments and courts were the most interested in the scientology organisation.
The central premise, that it matters whether scientology is a religion because as a religion scientology enjoys privileges, is perhaps a little foreign to people living outside the USA. The status of the organisation as religious is nevertheless central to the way the organisation presents itself and how it interacts with media and governments alike, regardless of how much the UK government calls it a cult in parliament and how the French courts are busy working through a court case where the organisation itself is accused (and convicted in the first instance, pending appeal) of operating as organised fraud.
This book is good to get for a fresh look at the history of official church, starting with L Ron Hubbard's satanic experiments after WWII through the surprising (and legally challenged) acceptance by the IRS as a religion to today's emerging status as an organisation defined by its struggle not only with the psychiatric profession but with modern communications in the form of the Internet.
Buy this, learn from it and encourage others to write similar works perhaps about the Sea Org, about the criminal activities and about the front organisations.