"There's this cult in New York called Scientology, and if you give them all your money they'll make anything possible in your life," said Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Crash, and former Scientologist when explaining on camera why he first joined the church. You know Scientology by its famous celebrity ambassadors (Tom Cruise and John Travolta), you've heard rumors of its eccentric founder L. Ron Hubbard, and you know that Scientology is a fairly new, controversial religion. But now, the usually closed doors of Scientology have been blown wide open thanks to HBO's Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief .
Scientology, founded in 1953 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is explored in detail in the two-hour-long doc. Going Clear is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright's book (who previously penned The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11). The doc debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and a full house, and now mass audiences will finally get to see the doc for themselves. Featuring a variety of sources once close to the church, the exposé of sorts reveals disturbing, alleged details and secrets of the contentious belief system.
Based on the documentary's sources, here are 20 moments from the doc that caught my attention. The Church of Scientology reached out to Bustle and asked us to include this statement in our coverage of the film: "The accusations made in the film are entirely false and alleged without ever asking the Church."
1. L. Ron Hubbard Holds The Guinness Book Of World Record For Most Books Written
During World War II, L. Ron Hubbard wrote pulp fiction, getting paid per word. He would write quickly, and with as many words as he could fit on the page. Flourishing in the science fiction genre, he has been published more than anyone on the planet. One interviewee said, "He transported these imaginary stories into his theology."
2. L. Ron Hubbard Allegedly Said He Was Crippled In The War, But Records Show He Only Had Mild Arthritis
According to the doc, Hubbard claimed he was blinded and crippled during World War II, though his records only show mild arthritis. He allegedly told his followers that Scientology had cured him of his ailments. Author Wright said: "I had found evidence that Hubbard was never actually injured during the war. ... And so we pressed [Tommy Davis] for evidence that there had been such injuries and [Hubbard] had been the war hero that he described."
3. L. Ron Hubbard Allegedly Threatened To Kill Himself If His Then Girlfriend Didn't Marry Him
"He told me he was going to commit suicide if I didn't marry him," Hubbard's wife Sara Northrup Hollister alleged in her journal of the Scientology founder.
4. L. Ron Hubbard Allegedly Beat His Wife
"He hit me across the side of the face with a 45... He always said he would kill me rather than let me leave him," Northup Hollister alleged in her diary. The Church denies these claims.
5. He Also Allegedly Kidnapped Their Child
According to the doc, when Hollister asked Hubbard to get psychiatric help, he allegedly kidnapped their baby.
6. ...And Allegedly Threatened To Kill Her
Hollister alleged, "He said he had killed her and put her in the river."
7. The Scientology Origin Of Earth Story Is Unusual
Once those attempting to achieve "clear" status had reached a certain level, they were allegedly given a hand-written note from L. Ron Hubbard containing Earth's creation story. Are you ready for this?
Scientologists allegedly believe that 75 million years ago there was an evil galactic ruler named Xenu, who solved overpopulation by bringing trillions of people to Earth in space planes. Earth, 75 million years ago, according to those interviewed in the documentary, allegedly looked eerily similar to 1950s America. They also claim that those brought to Earth were dropped into volcanos, then forced to watch 3D movies of what life should be like.
The church of Scientology's website doesn't go into detail of their origin story, but does state: "In Scientology, this view flows from the theory of theta (the life force, or spirit) creating MEST (a coined word for the physical universe, Matter, Energy, Space and Time). In fact, it could be said that the creation of the universe is an inseparable part of that theory. The origins of theta and the creation of the physical universe set forth in Scientology are described in The Factors, written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1953."
8. L. Ron Hubbard Allegedly Created Scientology As A Way To Make A Tax-Free Income
Churches are exempt from taxing. Hollister claims that Hubbard said: "The only way to make any real money is to make a religion."
9. Allegedly, If You're Part Of Scientology Long Enough, You Can Gain The Equivalent of Superpowers
According to those interviewed in the doc, through the many levels of auditing, you allegedly "go up the bridge," paying thousands of dollars to reach the next level of spiritual awareness. If you climb the bridge high enough, you supposedly become an Operating Thetan (OT), meaning you are an unearthly being.
However, the church states that becoming OT means: "Basically, one is oneself, can handle things and exist without physical support or assistance. It doesn’t mean one becomes God. It means one becomes wholly oneself."
10. To Work For The Scientologist Church, You Allegedly Sign A Billion Year Contract
Spanky Taylor, John Travolta's liaison to the Church, allegedly signed a contract stating that she would work for the church for one billion years. According to her interviews in the doc, she allegedly heard that people in Scientology "have superpowers," saying, "I'd like to have superpowers."
The church's website states: "The first Sea Organization members formulated a one-billion-year pledge to symbolize their eternal commitment to the religion and it is still signed by all members today. It is a symbolic document which, similar to vows of dedication in other faiths and orders, serves to signify an individual’s eternal commitment to the goals, purposes and principles of the Scientology religion."
11. In the 1960s, Hubbard Was Allegedly Under Investigation In Several Countries, So He Took To The High Seas
The Sea Org is allegedly a paramilitary wing of the Church of Scientology, made up of the Church's most dedicated members. According to interviews in the doc, if Hubbard didn't like the work someone was doing on the ship, there are claims that he tossed them overboard. These were supposedly called "ethics" penalties and were for those who disobeyed. Apparently, he would say: "We commit your errors to the deep," while throwing him or her overboard.
12. "Fair Game" Allegedly Means Committing Crimes Against Non-Scientologists Is OK
According to those interviewed, "fair game" is a term allegedly used in Scientology that means anyone who criticizes the church is fair game to do whatever with, legal or not. The interviewees recount a journalist working on Scientology story who allegedly had his dog poisoned, that the Church allegedly locked people in cages, beat them in their homes, and more.
According to this Scientology website: "There is a rumor around that a former member of Scientology could be declared "Fair Game", meaning that illegal actions could be taken against this person with Church officials closing both eyes. This is nonsense and has no evidence at all."
13. Scientologists Allegedly Have Prison Camps Called "Rehabilitation Project Force"
RPF is allegedly a "prison camp where you'd go for reindoctrination," said Spanky Taylor, who was forced into one such camp. She claims there is confined space in the camp and "30 hours of work on three hours off to sleep." Taylor claims those in the camp are forced to work hard labor, eat table scraps, and sleep on mattresses on the roof of the Scientology center that were wet and soggy.
According to Scientology's website: "The Rehabilitation Project Force is a voluntary program of spiritual rehabilitation. The emphasis is on the word 'rehabilitation,' meaning, in this context, to restore one’s condition to an optimal spiritual state."
14. In RPF, Children Are Allegedly Taken From Their Parents
Taylor's daughter was allegedly taken away from her during her time in the camp. When she was finally able to visit her daughter, she claims she found her, along with other children, in horrifying conditions. She alleged her daughter's eyes "were welled shut," that she was in a "urine soaked crib" and had "fruit flies all over her body" and a terrible fever.
15. Scientologists Allegedly Think Homosexuality Is A Disease
This is the reason Academy Award winner Paul Haggis gives for ultimately leaving the church, having two gay daughters of his own. The Church claimed their connection to Prop 8 was “an error” and that “the church supports civil rights for everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, race, color or creed.”
16. Thanks To Auditing, Scientologists Allegedly Have Blackmail On Everyone
Auditing allegedly involves sharing your most intimate secrets with members of the church. This folder of secrets supposedly comes in handy when a member decides he or she wants to leave the church.
The auditing process is described by the church of Scientology as, "...only auditing provides a precise route by which individuals may travel to higher states of spiritual awareness. The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is accomplished by: (1) helping individuals rid themselves of any spiritual disabilities; (2) increasing spiritual abilities."
17. Former Scientology Member Alleges He Tore Nicole Kidman & Tom Cruise Apart
In interviews, one former member alleges he "physically installed wiretap on [Nicole Kidman's] phone" when tasked with breaking up the A-lister's marriage. He then claims to have sent the phone tapes to Scientologist president David Miscavige.
Kidman was allegedly labeled a Potential Trouble Source, or PTS, because her father is a psychologist. The same man who wiretapped her phone also alleged he turned her own children against her.
You can read more about these claims here.
18. Actress Nazanin Boniadi Was Allegedly Vetted To Become Tom Cruise's Next Wife
According to those interviewed, the actress was given a makeover to appeal to Cruise's liking. The pair allegedly began dating and moved in together, but when she supposedly upset him by insulting Scientology president David Miscavige, she was allegedly forced to move out and perform humiliating tasks like "scrubbing floors with a toothbrush."
However, a search for "Nazanin Boniadi" on the Scientology website yielded no results, and in a Vanity Fair article, scientologists claim this set-up is false.
19. Scientology Allegedly Pays Workers Poorly
One former Scientologist claims he was paid "50 bucks a week for 28 years," stating that workers are paid, "six to 40 cents per hour."
According to one article, Scientologists have taken a "vow of poverty" and it is the Church's right to underpay them. In 2012, public affairs director Reverend Mary Anderson said the Church of Scientology should be exempt from workplace law, stating: "There is nothing wrong with the concept 'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work' but it is misdirected when applied to religious volunteers whose focus is not on pay but on service to a spiritual cause."
She also said making non-profits pay award wages was "a violation of human rights."
20. "Disconnection" Is Allegedly The Process Of Cutting People Out Of Your Life Who Don't Believe In Scientology.
This allegedly includes friends, family, and children. Toxic types are allegedly labeled "suppressives."
The Church of Scientology says of disconnection: "A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive or who is antagonistic to Scientology or its tenets. All spiritual advancement gained from Scientology may well be lost because one is continually invalidated by an antagonistic person who wants nothing more than to do harm to the person. In order to resolve this situation, one either 'handles' the other person’s antagonism with true data about Scientology and the Church or, as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one 'disconnects' from or stops communicating with the person."
When famed ex-Scientologist Leah Rimini exited the church, the church told Radar : “Contrary to myths spouted by… anti-Scientologists, the Church cannot and does not 'order' any parishioner to disconnect. Such a decision always has been and remains a deeply personal choice made entirely by the individual. This has been spelled out clearly on our website for years.”
Going Clear premiered Sunday, March 29 on HBO.