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  • The Church of Fear

  • Inside the Weird World of Scientology
  • Written by: John Sweeney
  • Narrated by: John Sweeney
  • Length: 10 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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The Church of Fear

Written by: John Sweeney
Narrated by: John Sweeney
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Publisher's Summary

Tom Cruise and John Travolta say the Church of Scientology is a force for good. Others disagree.

Award-winning journalist John Sweeney investigated the Church for more than half a decade. During that time he was intimidated, spied on, and followed, and the results were spectacular: Sweeney lost his temper with the Church's spokesman on camera, and his infamous 'exploding tomato' clip was seen by millions around the world.

In The Church of Fear, Sweeney tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind's problems.

This is the real story of the Church by the reporter who was brave enough to take it on.

John Sweeney is a reporter for BBC Panorama. He is the author of six previous books including the novel Elephant Moon.

©2013 John Sweeney (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

What the critics say

"A bold and swashbuckling reporter...let him shout: at least he shouts the truth." ( Mail on Sunday)
"Gripping." (The Economist)
"A brave book." (Liverpool Daily Post)
"Blackly comic." (The Humanist)

What listeners say about The Church of Fear

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book read by author = awesome! :-) :-) :-)

This book is an account of the author’s experience researching and filming an investigative journalism tv program about Scientology. It’s VERY, VERY GOOD!!! He provides research references, including a number of scholarly publications. Also, the author’s personality is great; adds some comedic relief to a very serious story.

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  • sd
  • 2020-10-18

Horrible narration

Tedious, melodramatic and hard to listen to. Sentences trailed off into lower tones and I kept having to rewind and still didnt know what was said . Harsh unclear accent ..and I grew up in the UK.

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  • Audio Gra Gra
  • 2016-05-29

The Church of Intimidation, Deviousness and Evil

I would recommend choosing the audiobook over the printed version of "The Church of Fear" as you can hear in the authors own voice his mix of outrage, paranoia and sense of seemingly impending insanity as he details his encounters with this sinister religious scam. John Sweeney is the BBC journalist who went viral on YouTube in 2007 after he lost his temper in a shouting match with scientology (I refuse to capitalise this evil organisation's name) representative Tommy Davis. "The Church of Fear" details the behind the scenes tale of the making of BBC's documentary on scientology.
Unlike other recent books on scientology, particularly Janet Reitman's "Inside scientology", where the authors make a decent stab at impartiality, John Sweeney's book is deliciously biased, and to be fair, he's completely justified to take this approach - the evidence he presents of intimidation, spying, threats, "legal" bullying and psychological warfare perpetrated by scientology to scuttle the BBC documentary left him in a state of paranoia, confusion and awe at his subject's cunning and deviousness.
If you already know about the evils of the people running scientology then there's nothing new here, but the account of someone who finds themselves caught in a maze of despicable, tawdry and sinister behaviour makes this account well worth the listen / read. It will leave you wondering at the appalling cowardice of US government organisations like the IRS who continue to refuse to put scientology in its place - which should be a bizarre footnote of history, but instead continues to function as an untaxed business / scam started by a bad science fiction writer who has proved that vulnerable people will literally fall for the craziest stuff imaginable.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Cheryl
  • 2016-04-03

Scary look into cult

Great job John Sweeney! You braved a journey most would fear to make. A truth seeker does not a bigot make

7 people found this helpful

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  • Rabid Readers Reviews
  • 2015-09-15

Interesting look into a secretive religion...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

"The Church of Fear" gives readers a little known look into a well known but little talked about religion in which members are secluded from the unbelieving family members and forced to pay exorbitant improvement fees. Scientology's cult status is clearly with each page.

Who was your favorite character and why?

John Sweeney was a favorite in his no holds barred quest for the truth.

Have you listened to any of John Sweeney’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not. In "Church of Fear" Sweeney was energetic and fired by his convictions which made for a fascinating listen.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"You can join but you can never leave."

Any additional comments?

“Church of Fear” by John Sweeney is a wonderfully interesting and informative read. If you’re interested in cults, human nature and organizational control pick the book up today and if you’re in the mood for a special treat, be sure the version you buy is the audio book.

6 people found this helpful

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  • J. E. JORDAN
  • 2016-02-24

Real Life Suspense

Usually, I don't like when authors narrate their own books, but this one works. I found the whole thing suspenseful and I couldn't wait to get back to it each evening. I'd seen the Panorama broadcast long before choosing this audio book. I can report that the book had more in depth. It was probably made better because I could see the interviews he relates in my mind's eye. So I think the film and the book complement each other.

All in all an exciting story.

In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Michael Moore and Bowling for Columbine.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2016-07-04

An eye opener. Thank you.

This is a great book with a thought-provoking message about religion and cults. Where is that line? Have we all grown tolerant of cult activities in our churches because we just got used to it? This extreme case of a cult should make us examine all our organized churches.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Count B
  • 2016-07-25

CHURCH OF FEAR IS WHAT IT IS!

Any additional comments?

Scientology is a sick cult, the author spent many years on this story & takes you deep inside this sick cult of greed, power & misery. It will open for eyes & most certainly shock you that this criminal organisation can call itself a religion & damage so many peoples lives. A shocking true story that will captivate you.

3 people found this helpful

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  • DJM
  • 2016-01-26

Frankly, A Bit Tedious

Listen to/read the book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" before tackling this book. "Going Clear" will give you a solid background into the history of LRH and the Church as well as several of the higher-ups, places and activities described in Church of Fear. I say the book is tedious to listen to because Sweeney spends much of the book reading transcripts of his interviews where people are constantly interrupting one another and speaking in sentence fragments. These interviews would be difficult to follow if you could see the different people talking. When it's just Sweeney reading all the parts it's a mess. If you have some background with the story of Scientology it will make some sense. If you are not familiar with the COS then it will simply be incredibly confusing.

I gave it three stars which is probably generous. I did that because what does come through is just how disturbing this experience was for Sweeney. Sweeney comes off as very authenticate. If Sweeney had made an effort to provide his readers/listeners some context for the Church and the interviews it probably would have worked. As it was, I'm sorry I wasted a credit even though I purchased it on the 3 for 2 deal.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Linda
  • 2015-12-10

Wonderful story

Where does The Church of Fear rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It would rank a 3 for me. I haven't read a lot about this subject, but I am trying to get a grip on the subject. Most of the books on this subject seems to repeat the others.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Hard at times to keep up with who is saying what. Speaking very fast.

What does John Sweeney bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I don't think I would have read very much of the book itself..

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

As most people, I believe, knows that scientology is a cult. Why is the FBI doing nothing about it. Any church I go to does not ask my past or record my confessions. I know they are teaching from the Bible. Your personal choice is to believe or not believe.

Any additional comments?

The books I have listened to so far bring Tom Cruise and John Travolta up a lot. They are not the only people in scientology. I have seen a lot of clips with Tom and he does seem to be a little off in the head. But John seems to just keep away from the press getting on with his life and his loss.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Bo
  • 2016-08-28

2 sticks of Dynamite!

Writer lost me early on after the claim that somebody stuck two sticks of dynamite up his nose. I went as far as Googling him, thinking he might have oversized nostrils. he doesn't. Performance is dreadful as well.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Left4rss
  • 2016-07-08

North Korea undercover is much better

I got this book because I found his book on north Korea to be eye opening.
This book is not nearly as good.
It reads like bad daytime TV and doesn't give you the feeling of objectivity.
I'm not a member of the organisation in question, nor have I ever been. But it's defenders in this book have a point: it does seem as if Sweeney came in knowing the story he wanted to tell, rather than attempting to find fact.

If he were interested in truth (rather than an exposé) then I believe he would have dealt with people differently.

In his defence, I'm not a journalist and maybe his approach is normal.

But it didn't sit well with me.

I've lived most audible books I've bought.

I'll be returning this one.

2 people found this helpful