Hugh Urban: An Interview With the Professor Who Took on Scientology - 2011-09-15
Urban, with Nancy Jesser, their daughter Maya Urban-Jesser, and Shiva the dog In June, we reviewed a remarkable new book about Scientology. A review copy of Hugh Urban's The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion, put out by the Princeton University Press, had arrived at our desk almost the same day as Janet Reitman's highly anticipated book about the church, Inside Scientology.
We were impressed by the way Urban, in only 216 pages, not only laid out a robust history of Scientology in a highly readable narrative, but also did what others really hadn't before: put L. Ron Hubbard's creation in the cultural and political context of its time -- Scientology is a Cold War product, and absorbed all of that era's paranoia and desire for secrecy.
Urban's book was also impressive for its depth of research -- here in one volume were citations of many of the most significant court decisions that have rocked Scientology over the decades, as well as concise rundowns of many other church controversies. The book makes for a great companion to Reitman's journalistic approach: both books have come out at about the same time, and both with common goals of looking at a controversial subject from an objective, scholarly point of view.