TAMPA, FL - In an exclusive 20/20 interview, former sitcom star Leah Remini is taking us inside the controversial church of scientology she joined as a child.
She’s opening up in her new book “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” revealing what she says her whole life was like in the church and how Tom Cruise was one of the factors leading her to break away.
“You're giving up everything you have ever known,” said Remini, “And because Scientologists view children as spiritual beings, you're not treated as a kid. You're given a lot of responsibility, your ego extremely inflated.”
Never has a Scientologist this famous criticized the church.
Church leaders have come out saying the actress needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion.
Nowadays scientology isn’t the only religion in the spotlight.
From 'Breaking Amish' to 'Sister Wives' and a game show about the bible, it’s a regular topic on reality TV.
Ryan Cragun knows what heavy criticism Remini is facing.
“My mom was furious and yelled at me, called me the antichrist thought I was this horrible person,” said Cragun.
Growing up in Utah, Cragun left the church of Latter Day Saints after discovering the Book of Mormon had what he calls discrepancies.
“There are inaccuracies like there were elephants, steel, wheat and none of that was actually here in that time period,” said Cragun.
Now an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, he says new religions are often doubted for these reasons, “They want people to join, but they don't want really what's going on inside there to get out.”
And most of them like the Church of Scientology in Ybor are near college campuses to recruit young individuals.
“They are an ideal population of people who are questioning, who are wondering,” said Cragun.
He thinks scientology is more of a form of therapy.
“It was founded by L. Ron Hubbard who was a fairly well known science fiction author, and he wrote what he thought was a ground breaking book called 'Dianetics.' He lays out his vision about a revolutionary new science to treat the problems that people deal with,” said Cragun.
With the worldwide headquarters for Scientology counseling in Clearwater, Cragun sees Remini’s interview as a step back, but by no means detrimental to the controversial scientology.