¿Por qué estos hombres se volvieron contra Estados Unidos, un país enormemente religioso que hacía poco tiempo había sido su aliado en Afganistán? En gran medida era porque veían a Estados Unidos como el centro del poder cristiano. Antes, la religiosidad de los muyahidines musulmanes y de los dirigentes cristianos del gobierno estadounidense había servido como un vínculo entre ellos. […] Pero el cristianismo, sobre todo la versión evangelizadora estadounidense, y el islam eran, sin duda, religiones rivales.
—  Lawrence Wright, La torre elevada - Al-Qaeda y los orígenes del 11-S

Lawrence Wright tells Terry Gross about the belief some Scientologists have that Hubbard will return to Earth:

There’s a widespread belief that he’s going to return, and every Scientology church and his several residences and so on, they have his office ready for him. His sandals are at the shower door. He’s got his cigarettes on his desk. In his residence in the Scientology compound in southern California there’s a novel beside his bed, and they change his sheets on his bed daily and they set a table place for him for one at his dining room table. So there’s a sense that he might come back at any moment.

Miscavige keeps a number of dogs, including five beagles. He had blue vests made up for each of them, with four stripes on the shoulder epaulets, indicating the rank of Sea Org Captain. He insists that people salute the dogs as they parade by. The dogs have a mini-treadmill where they work out. A full-time staff member feeds, walks, and trains the dogs, takes them to the veterinarian, and enters one of them, Jelly, into contests, where he has attained championship status. Another of Miscavige’s favorites, a Dalmatian-pit bull mix named Buster, went on a rampage one day and killed ten peacocks on the property, then proudly laid them out for all to see. Buster has also attacked various members of the staff, sending one elderly woman to the emergency room and earning Buster his own Ethics folder. Miscavige eventually had the dog taken away to another Sea Org base, even though he believed that Buster had a nose for “out ethics” behavior.
—  Lawrence Wright, from Going Clear

16 Shocking Allegations In Scientology Documentary ‘Going Clear’

The Church of Scientology has long been a controversial institution among both the religious community and entertainment business. But the latest documentary from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” explores the secrets of the organization through interviews with former high-ranking officials and former members in a way never seen before.

Based on the 2013 book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, “Going Clear” not only exposes details about Scientology but also serves as an in-depth explainer for those unfamiliar with the group. The Church has spoken out against the film (read their full statement here) as have its celebrity members. But whether you’ve studied Scientology closely or merely know it as “the religion with Tom Cruise,” watching “Going Clear” is a powerful, stunning and emotionally overwhelming experience that will likely leave you with your mouth agape. Here are the most shocking allegations put forth in “Going Clear,” which made its HBO debut on Sunday night.


BPC // July 31 // Read this month

  • Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, by Kimberly Karalius: ⭐️⭐️
  • A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Darker Shade of Magic and The Wrath and the Dawn were my favorites this month, by far! I can’t wait for the sequels 😄

The Best Books I've Read this Year

Like last year, I’ve had some friends recently asking me for book recs–either for gifts or for books to dig into over the holidays. Here are some books, both old and new, that I read this year that stuck with me. (Links to author-related events included, too.)

Keep reading

The secret civilian effort to save five American hostages in Syria

The parents of five captives in Syria felt that the U.S. government had abandoned them. But they wouldn’t give up. Read Lawrence Wright’s exclusive report on

Diane and John Foley endured two kidnapping ordeals. Their son Jim, a journalist, was abducted in both Libya and Syria.

Art and Shirley Sotloff, with their daughter, Lauren. The Sotloffs considered raising a ransom to save their son, Steven, even though U.S. officials threatened them with prosecution.

Carl and Marsha Mueller, the parents of Kayla, who was kidnapped while doing relief work in Syria. Carl Mueller felt that Qatari officials—who offered to negotiate for her return—were more helpful than U.S. officials.

Nancy Curtis and her son, Theo Padnos. Three cousins joined her effort to save Theo. The group was called the All-Girl Team.

Photographs by Carla van de Puttelaar

Lawrence Wright tells Terry Gross about Scientology’s Operating Thetan Level No. 3:

When you get to Operating Thetan Level No. 3, there’s a big discovery that you have in Scientology. It was the most closely held secret in the church until it was put out and dumped into a courtroom in the ‘80s and all the copyrighted secrets of the church became public knowledge. At that level, Hubbard reveals that we are all infested with space aliens that are called 'Body Thetans,’ and they’re really the sources of all of the problems and fears and things that we have in our lives, and if you can audit yourself and discover these Thetans and expel them, it’s akin to casting out demons that you can free yourself to ever higher levels of spiritual accomplishment.“

image via Universe Today

Los islamistas querían reformar por completo la sociedad, de arriba abajo, imponiendo valores islámicos en todos los ámbitos de la vida, de forma que todos los musulmanes pudieran alcanzar la expresión espiritual más pura. Esto solo se podía lograr mediante una estricta imposición de la sharia, un código jurídico inspirado en el Corán y los dichos (hadices) del profeta Mahoma, que rige todos los aspectos de la vida.
—  Lawrence Wright, La torre elevada - Al-Qaeda y los orígenes del 11-S

[Abdullah Azzam] told stories of mujahideen who defeated vast columns of Soviet troops virtually single-handed. He claimed that some of the brave warriors had been run over by tanks but survived; others were shot, but the bullets failed to penetrate. If death came, it was even more miraculous. When one beloved mujahid expired, the ambulance filled with the sound of humming bees and chirping birds, even though they were in the Afghan desert in the middle of the night. Bodies of martyrs uncovered after a year in the grave still smelled sweet and their blood continued to flow. Heaven and nature conspired to repel the godless invader. Angels rode into the battle on horseback, and falling bombs were intercepted by birds, which raced ahead of the jets to form a protective canopy over the warriors.

- from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower (p. 122)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright likes to be at the cross-section of religion and culture.  He has written about al-Qaida, Scientology and now, what happened behind-the-scenes at the Camp David Accords in 1978.  His book, Thirteen Days in September, takes a look at what Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wanted to gain–and what they had to lose.

Wright tells Fresh Air today that both Sadat and Begin came close to walking out and how President Carter reacted: 

“Implicitly, [Carter] was threatening war because he was saying that if there’s another war, [the U.S.] is going to be on Israel’s side and Egypt will be alone and friendless in the world. It was a very sobering moment. Carter told me that he had never been angrier in his entire life. It was clear that he made a real impression on Sadat. Sadat had already ordered the helicopter; he had packed his clothes; he was out of there. He was worried that he was going to be asked to give up too much at Camp David and he wouldn’t be able to justify it when he got home.

[Begin] didn’t really have a position. He didn’t want to agree to any of the terms that Carter was putting forward. Finally, he began to realize that he was going to have to agree with something in order to preserve the relationship with the United States. Carter told him that if he left Camp David, he was going to make sure that the American people knew who was to blame [for the collapse of the peace talks]. He was going to go to Congress; he was going to lay it on them.

One of [Carter’s] speechwriters was told to draw up a speech in which Carter was going to ask the Israeli people to overthrow their government, through a vote, but imagine! You can’t believe how that would be received in Israel or even the Congress of the United States. Things had gotten so personal at the point. Carter believed so strongly that peace was worth it, but he was about to blow everything to smithereens — if either of these men walked out, they were going to pay a price and he wanted to make sure they knew it.”

“Clear” and Present Danger: Alex Gibney on His Bold Scientology Doc

Though it helps humanize many current and former believers, Going Clear pulls no punches against Scientology’s biggest “celebrity megaphones” — especially its superstar public face, Tom Cruise. Both the book and film allege that Cruise, a close friend of Miscavige (who was the best man at the actor’s wedding), has benefited for years from a labor force of Sea Org clergy members. “I’m singling him out,” Wright says. “More people got interested in Scientology because of Tom Cruise than any other individual, and he knows what’s going on. He could effect change, and it’s on his shoulders that he should.”

Gibney is harsher still. “For [Cruise] not to denounce, or at least investigate, what’s going on seems appalling to me,” he says. “He gets a lot of money and a lot of privilege from a lot of fans, and the idea that allows the vulnerable to be preyed upon in his name seems reprehensible.” In fact, Going Clear claims that Cruise’s own ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, fell victim to Scientology’s excesses herself. According to high-ranking defector Marty Rathbun, the Church wiretapped Kidman as part of a multifaceted campaign to drive the couple apart when Miscavige felt she was pulling him away from his faith. Even to readers of Wright’s book, this is breaking news.

“That was something Marty told me in my interview,” Gibney says. “When he spoke to Larry for the book, emotionally, he still had one foot in the Church. [Rathbun] had been a key enforcer for them. To unravel those big lies takes years, and to undo the psychological damage that was done to him by the Church is a slow healing process. He was able to say things now about how aggressive the Church was, in terms of trying to get Cruise back, that he might not have been willing to say before.”

I interviewed Oscar and Emmy–winning director Alex Gibney, Pulitzer-winning journalist Lawrence Wright, and high-ranking Scientology defector Mike Rinder about their upcoming HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief for Rolling Stone. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I hope you enjoy reading it.