Synopses & Reviews
A journalist's penetrating look at the untold story of christian fundamentalism's most elite organization, a self-described invisible network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerful
They are the Family--fundamentalism's avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen--congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a leadership led by God, to be won not by force but through quiet diplomacy. Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its walls.
The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power--not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a family that thrives to this day. In public, they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private, they preach a gospel of biblical capitalism, military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as leadership models, the Family's current leader, Doug Coe, declares, We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't.
Sharlet's discoveries dramatically challenge conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the waging of the cold war, and theno-holds-barred economics of globalization. The question Sharlet believes we must ask is not What do fundamentalists want? but What have they already done?
Part history, part investigative journalism, The Family is a compelling account of how fundamentalism came to be interwoven with American power, a story that stretches from the religious revivals that have shaken this nation from its beginning to fundamentalism's new frontiers. No other book about the right has exposed the Family or revealed its far-reaching impact on democracy, and no future reckoning of American fundamentalism will be able to ignore it.
“Jeff Sharlet provides a fascinating account of how part of American Christianity has gone off on a dangerous tangent. It should worry everyonemaybe especially those of us who understand the Gospels to be a call to help the powerless, not prop up the powerful.” Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and The Bill McKibben Reader
“A brilliant marriage of investigative journalism and history, an unsettling story of how this small but powerful group shaped the faith of the nation in the 20th century and drives the politics of empire in the 21st. Anyone interested in circles of power will love this book.” Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
“Un-American theocrats can only fool patriotic American democrats when there arent critics like Jeff Sharlet aroundcareful scholars and soulful writers who understand both the majesty of faith and the evil of its abuses. A remarkable accomplishment in the annals of writing about religion.” Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
“Jeff Sharlet is one of the very best writers covering the politics of religion. Brilliantly reported and filled with wonderful anecdotes, THE FAMILY tells the story of an influential group that you havent previously heard of, and need to know about.” Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper's and author of The Radioactive Boy Scout
“One of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes youll ever readjust dont read it alone at night!” Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch
“[Sharlet] has managed to infiltrate the most influential and secretive fundamentalist network in America, and ground his reporting in the most astute and original explanation of fundamentalism Ive ever read. . . . Indispensable.” Hanna Rosin, former religion reporter for the Washington Post and author of God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save the Nation
“I was once an insiders insider within fundamentalism. Unequivocally: Sharlet knows what hes talking about. . . . Those who want to be un-deceived (and wildly entertained) must read this disturbing tour de force.” Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back
“Of all the important studies of the American right, THE FAMILY is undoubtedly the most eloquent. It is also quite possibly the most terrifying.” Thomas Frank, New York Times bestselling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?
“An astounding entrée to a fascinating Christian network unknown to most Americans. . . . A must-read for any American who wants to know who is actually pulling the strings at the highest levels of power.” Heidi Ewing, co-director Jesus Camp
“This is a gripping, utterly original narrative about an influential evangelical elite that few Americans even know exists. . . . The Christian Right will never look the same again.” Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: the Life of William Jennings Bryan and The Populist Persuasion: An American History
"[a] searing expose." -People Magazine
"the most complete picture of Scientology so far." -Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review
"compelling, rich and courageous...what comes through this prodigious reporting effort is a really good read about the birth of a strange and yet all-American institution...INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY is an impressive high-wire act producing a scrupulous history of how one man reframed the universe and how a lot of people paid for the privilege of agreeing with him." - Oregonian
"Inside Scientology is a masterful piece of reporting....a compelling introduction to "Americas most secretive religion," as the subtitle has it. Even for those who have no interest in parsing when cults become religions or why faith upends fact, Reitman tells a spellbinding story of a larger-than-life personality whose quirks, ticks and charisma shaped Americas newest homegrown religious movement." - Washington Post
"this book is fearless" - Wall Street Journal
"[a] meaty, engaging new book" -Slate.com
"In a new book, Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secret Religion, author Janet Reitman tell the fascinating history of the mysterious organization and its members." - Time.com
"[a] meticulously researched history and revealing exposé, a frightening portrait of a religion that many find not just controversial, but dangerous…Throughout the book, the author displays consummate journalistic skills. Her accumulation of evidence is particularly impressive and gives rise to one of the more memorable works of investigative nonfiction in recent years."- Boston Globe
"a well-researched and compelling read" - Los Angeles Times
"[a] richly narrative history of the organization… The book is convincing and compelling. It will be interesting to see how the Scientology leadership responds." - St Louis Post Dispatch
leaves no scandal unturned in the life of L. Ron Hubbard
, underlings, celebrities and cult "slaves" in this story of America's most secretive religion....It is a riveting read not only for its thorough research, and winning style, but because [Reitman] has left no greed undescribed in the 396 page-turner." - Seattle Post Intelligencer
"So most journalistic accounts of Scientology fall into two categories: ax-grinding expose or fawning apologism. Fortunately Janet Reitman finds a third way in her authoritative, absorbing "Inside Scientology": nuanced reporting that lets the facts speak for themselves..."Inside Scientology" will remain a thoughtful, fair-minded record of its tumultuous first generation." - San Francisco Chronicle
"a serious, painstaking investigation of the organization's unique structure and bare-knucled business acumen." - GQ
"Reitman's book delivers all it promises, and it promises a lot… [Reitman] has put together the most masterfully written, narratively rewarding, and thorough yarn about L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, and Scientology and its strange past, present, and possible future….In Inside Scientology
, we have a thorough, brave journalist backed by a major publisher, and soon what no doubt will be a major publicity push: Reitman's book should soon become Scientology's biggest headache in years." - Village Voice
"[a] meticulously compiled exposé, culled from hundreds of interviews with active Scientologists and defectors alike. [Reitman's] revelations — including abuse allegations against church leader David Miscavige and details about the organization's aggressive courtship of Tom Cruise — come with impressive backup." - Entertainment Weekly
is an engrossing, groundbreaking work that brings a welcome sense of fair-mindedness to a subject that is, for many journalists and scholars, too hot to touch. Reitman has accomplished the miracle of adding light without heat."
—Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
"Inside Scientology goes beyond the celebrities and the scandals—though they're here in all their absurdity and horror—to find in Scientology a more profound story about "technology" as an article of faith and faith as a vessel for science, or, at least, science fiction. With precision and empathy, Janet Reitman has in this definitive investigation laid bare the genesis and possibly the endgame of America's strangest religion."
—Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family and C Street
Inspiration for the Netflix Documentary Series
"Of all the important studies of the American right, The Family is undoubtedly the most eloquent. It is also quite possibly the most terrifying." -- Thomas Frank, New York Times bestselling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?
They insist they're just a group of friends, yet they funnel millions of dollars through tax-free corporations. They claim to disdain politics, but congressmen of both parties describe them as the most influential religious organization in Washington. They say they're not Christians, but simply believers.
Behind the scenes at every National Prayer Breakfast since 1953 has been the Family, an elite network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerful. Their goal is "Jesus plus nothing." Their method is backroom diplomacy. The Family is the startling story of how their faith--part free-market fundamentalism, part imperial ambition--has come to be interwoven with the affairs of nations around the world.
They insist they are just a group of friends, yet they funnel millions of dollars through tax-free corporations. They claim to disdain politics, but congressmen of both parties describe them as the most influential religious organization in Washington. They say they are not Christians, but simply believers.
Behind the scenes at every National Prayer Breakfast since 1953 has been the Family, an elite network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerful. Their goal is "Jesus plus nothing." Their method is backroom diplomacy. The Family is the startling story of how their faith—part free-market fundamentalism, part imperial ambition—has come to be interwoven with the affairs of nations around the world.
How is it that America's most popular new religion is still its least understood? Janet Reitman sheds some long-awaited light on the ever-elusive faith organization, the Church of Scientology. Based on five years of research, access to confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is the first objective modern history of the notoriously secretive faith.
“A masterful piece of reporting . . . Reitman tells a spellbinding story of a larger-than-life personality whose quirks, ticks and charisma shaped Americas newest homegrown religious movement.” — Washington Post
Scientology is known for its celebrity believers and its team of “volunteer ministers” at disaster sites such as the World Trade Center; its notably aggressive response to criticism or its attacks on psychiatry; its requirement that believers pay as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the highest levels of salvation. But for all its notoriety, Scientology has remained Americas least understood new religion, even as it has been one of its most successful.
Now Janet Reitman tells its riveting full story in the first objective modern history of Scientology, at last revealing the astonishing truth about life within the controversial religion for its members and ex-members. Based on five years of research, confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is an utterly compelling work of nonfiction and the defining work on an elusive faith.
“A meticulously researched history and revealing exposé, a frightening portrait of a religion that many find not just controversial, but dangerous.” — Boston Globe
“This book is fearless.” — Wall Street Journal
A New York Times Notable Book
Amazon.com Best Books of 2011, Nonfiction
San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten of 2011
About the Author
JANET REITMAN is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Her work has appeared in GQ, Men's Journal, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in 2007 for the story "Inside Scientology."