Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige and was raised in the Church of Scientology. After much soul-searching and years of unhappiness, Jenna decided to leave the church in 2005. In her memoir, she recounts exactly what life was like growing up in the most upper ranks of Scientology. Along the way, she explains the beliefs, teachings, rituals, and secrets of the religion and gives a unique perspective on this controversial and secretive organization.
I’m fascinated by all religions, especially those that seem completely unlike anything I could believe in myself, so it was a no-brainer that at some point I would pick up this book. I have to say that while I was expecting to be stunned by the insider information the author presents in this book, I was more than stunned – so much of what she tells the reader in this book is completely shocking. Take, for example, the fact that Scientology is really not a religion at all, but the founder of Scientology registered it as a religion with the IRS so they would receive the tax benefits of being a religious institution, just for starters. Seriously?!
Mostly I came away from this read feeling sad for the children that grow up in Scientology and have no choice but to be raised this way. The way Miscavige Hill grew up was that she lived separately from her parents and only saw them once a week, was assigned manual labor and truly hard work on most days, and her education consisted mainly of Scientology teachings and not a whole lot else. What an awful way for a child to grow up and truly reading about her life made my heart hurt for her and the rest of the children who grow up in Scientology.
I listened to the audio of Beyond Belief and Sandy Rustin did a great job narrating. It was a petty straightforward listen, nothing fancy, but I like to listen to nonfiction and this was a great choice for that.
If you are as interested in learning about different religions and/or cult-like groups, Beyond Belief is a great choice. Miscavige Hill reveals a lot about the Church of Scientology that was previously unknown to most of the general public, and she did so at great risk to the members of her family who still have ties to the church. Mostly she wanted to educate people on the truth about Scientology and I think she did a great job of doing that without being too harsh on its leadership. Highly recommended.