Hate sells. That is the dark message of Ryan Prescott’s new book, A Billion Lies: The Highest Ranks of the Church of Scientology Couldn’t Throw Him Out Fast Enough.
The “him” refers to Mike Rinder, ex-Scientologist who, as the premise of the title implies, is far from a good person. Though Rinder is Prescott’s central figure, the book encompasses far more, exposing a web of lies for profit engaged in by several Scientology apostates who discovered largesse in dumping on their former religion. Through court filings, affidavits and interviews with those who knew, worked with and once believed in Rinder, the author shines the spotlight on the web of deceit Rinder and his partners in crime wove through outrageous and loudly proclaimed accusations, and using the legal system to help them generate myriad frivolous court filings as part of a planned campaign of harassment.
Rinder is merely one member of a band of profiteers who include blogger Tony Ortega, on whom Prescott presents evidence as being, among other matters, a human trafficking apologist and promoter. And Leah Remini, who loudly left the Church in a scripted PR stunt, then made knowingly false accusations to the LAPD who obligingly followed up on them and predictably discovered them to be bogus. Media, being what it is, however, eagerly gobbled up and spewed the accusation part of the story and neglected to mention the bogus part. And a lucrative new TV career was born for the former sitcom actress, this time peddling not laughter but venom.
A fourth member of the group was fellow ex-Scientologist Mark Rathbun, who at length himself became disgusted with the antics of the other three and published videos with the who, what, where, when and why in detail concerning them.
Mike Rinder, however, eagerly became Remini’s follower in her religion-bashing hate-fest.
Rinder—like many an apostate—leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. Prescott leads us down that trail through Rinder’s own writings, confessions and sworn affidavits. He created havoc in the Church and in his personal life. Lying, and lying about lying, he would tearfully confess and promising to do better and then continuing to create catastrophes. After leaving, he beat up his then-wife to the point of permanent disability.
Again and again his friends, fellow staff and family tried to help him and again and again he repaid kindness with abuse.
But hate is often accompanied by stupidity, and Rinder proves no stranger to both. He was as inept in covering his tracks as he was as a Church executive and as a human being. Prescott deftly uses Rinder’s own words—his praise of Scientology; his gratitude for the kindness of the Church’s Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige; his remorse for having hurt people; his uncontrollable propensity to lie—all there, chapter after chapter, backing up Prescott’s case against him and leading to the inevitable guilty verdict.
Prescott has plainly done his homework.
Mike Rinder, in Prescott’s rendering, could just as easily be the central figure of Faust, the tragic opera about a man who sells his soul for worldly pleasures. However, in Rinder’s case, the price paid was not just his soul, but his family, his friends, his church and any dregs of self-respect he may have had.
The Rinder of A Billion Lies is a scary, unpredictable individual, prone to rages and violence. A former colleague recalls, “Mike Rinder walked over to [a fellow staff member] and he had a pencil in his hand, and he says, ‘You do this one more time and I am going to stab you in the eyeball.’ And he had it right close to [the staff member’s] eye like this. And it was just completely unbelievable, the violence—the intention was so violent—I have never seen any staff member do something like that.”
Ryan Prescott is not a professional writer. His style is more like Mickey Mantle’s in Mantle’s sincere book for young people, The Quality of Courage. Like Mantle, he has something to impart to you—personally, urgently—and considerations of the right word or proper syntax are superseded by the passion and sincerity of what he has to say. And like Mantle, he occasionally breaks the fourth wall and speaks to his audience directly. The effect is disconcerting but invigorating. He also occasionally lays it on thick with evidence, especially from apostate Rathbun, long after the point has been made and the reader is convinced.
For these reasons as well as its subject matter, A Billion Lies is not lightweight reading for a day at the beach, and it is not for the literary purist.
But it is definitely for those who have a specific interest in what all the fuss is about concerning the Church of Scientology, an anvil which, as the saying goes wears out the hammers. But more universally it is a cautionary tale about the depths to which a human being can fall if he wears hatred and deceit as the weights around his neck.
“A Billion Lies: The Highest Ranks of the Church of Scientology Couldn’t Throw Him Out Fast Enough,” available as a paperback and on Amazon Kindle, 193 pages.