Lawrence Wright begins his lecture by elaborating on his recent journalistic investigation into the history of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. Wright seeks to answer two overarching questions: 1) Where do new religious ideas come from? and 2) why would anybody believe them? Although he focuses on Scientology, Wright also emphasizes the fundamental needs that drive people to all organized religions: hope, play, purpose, community, and structure. He credits the unique appeal of Scientology to a potent mixture of therapy, celebrity, and science.


Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, and playwright. After graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans, Wright completed his M.A. in Applied Linguistics in Cairo. He then pursued a career in journalism, writing for publications such as “Rolling Stone” and “The New Yorker,” for whom he has been a staff writer for two decades. He is the author of one novel and eight nonfiction books, including “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” which was nominated for the National Book Award and shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Wright is the co-writer of “The Siege” (1998), starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, and Annette Bening. His one-man play, “My Trip to Al-Qaeda,” was adapted into an HBO documentary film directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney. In addition to his writing career, Wright is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the keyboard player for the Austin-based blues band WhoDo. He is currently writing a series for HBO called “God Save Texas.”