By now, open mockery of the Church of Scientology is an international pastime. YouTube abounds with videos of the cult's celebrity devotees and zomboid inquisitors. And the group's nutty particulars —the mad founder; the "billion year" membership contracts; the evil Xenu, galactic bad boy of 75,000,000 years ago—are a source of continuing amusement. But Scientology remains a faintly sinister organization. Fattened with cash by a dubious IRS decision that awarded it tax-free status in 1993, it is a church whose chief sacrament is litigation, and it has been as savage in its attacks on critics as it is relentless in its harassment of apostates.
None of this will be news to longtime Scientology observers. But Alex Gibney's new documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, helpfully assembles a lot of it in one place, and the film will likely pop some eyes among those only casually acquainted with the church's bizarre workings.