'Going Clear' Author Lawrence Wright Calls on Celebrity Members to Reform Scientology

Going Clear Book Cover - P 2013

The writer also draws comparisons to Mormonism during a candid conversation with THR's Kim Masters at an event in Santa Monica.

Lawrence Wright, the bestselling author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, called on the religion's "celebrity pitchmen" to use their "moral authority" to bring about reform in the Church. 

Wright sat down for a conversation about the book with The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters at a sold-out event in Santa Monica sponsored by KCRW, Writers Bloc and THR

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Responding to a question about whether the religion had the capacity to reform itself after more than three decades of leadership under David Miscavige -- leadership that Wright argues in his book is abusive and detrimental to the overall health of the Church -- the author said a "reckoning" in Scientology is coming. 

He went on to argue that the only people with the pull and "moral authority" to bring about reform are the Church's celebrity adherents, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Wright said they have a "moral responsibility" to educate themselves about Scientology's practices and to confront any abuses within the religion.

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Wright went on to draw an interesting analogy to Mormonism.

He noted that in the late 19th century, Mormonism was considered an outsider religion with a theology that many considered odd at best. But after Mormon leaders had a re-evaluation around 1900 and decided that they wanted to become part of the "American community" by dropping some of its most controversial practices, the religion thrived to the point where the 2012 Republican presidential nominee was a Mormon. 

Wright argued that over the next century Scientology could follow the same arc to acceptance as Mormonism if it opens up to reform.

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Earlier conversation covered what Masters called "Scientology 101" -- the basic concepts of the religion from the idea of "clear" to the use of the religion's technology like the e-meter to its antipathy toward psychiatry. 

Wright also talked about Hubbard's background and how his bestselling book Dianetics fit into the wave of post-World War II self-help books, and detailed the Church's relationship with Travolta and Cruise. 

Masters kicked off the night by thanking several well-known former Scientologists in the audience, including Spanky Taylor, who helped recruit Travolta into the religion, for their willingness to share their stories with Wright and other journalists. 

Going Clear, published on Jan. 17, has spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, reaching as high as the No. 3 spot on the nonfiction list.