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I have heard various versions of this meme and was tempted to quote it in a comment on another thread. This site appears to do a fairly decent job of investigating the claim but leaves the conclusion based at best on anecdotal evidence that is disputed.

L. Ron Hubbard is widely rumored to have said "The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion." There are also variant rumors. For some reason, this is often mentioned on Usenet. Evidence is discussed below, but the short answer is that it's almost certainly true.

The closest thing the author of the site has to evidence is someone who said they were there years ago and heard it, or something like it said. Is there any evidence that Hubbard said this?

  • If by "hard evidence" you mean a recording, no. – philosodad Aug 2 '12 at 19:56
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    Whoops! I posted an answer (now deleted) relying on the very site you quoted - so much for my reading skills :-(. That site has not one but nine witnesses, (including one who signed an affadavit). What sort of evidence would you like to see to convince you? – Oddthinking Aug 3 '12 at 0:39
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    @Oddthinking - I Do not really know. I know it is a high bar but this really comes down to a bunch of people stepped up after he founded Scientology and said he said it. Finding the quote written down and attributed to him prior to the 1980's would work. I am not saying they are lying but we have seen before someone say they heard something that was completely made up but others have jumped in and agreed they heard it as well. So I think for a quote to be credible here it has to have been documented before Scientology became successful. – Chad Aug 3 '12 at 17:08
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The following is a report from an FDA investigation of the E-meter that a freedom of information request has unearthed:

MEMORANDUM OF INTERVIEW — August 30, 1970

Between: Mr. Samuel Moskowitz, 361 Roseville Avenue, Newark, New Jersey (Phone No. 201-HU-5-3295) And: Mr. Charles H. Everline, Hearing Officer, CMB, NYK-21

By prior appointment I visited Mr. Moskowitz at his home to discuss information he reportedly had concerning the early history of Mr. L. Ron Hubbard. Mr. Moskowitz had informed Mr. Bud Loftus that he first heard Mr. Hubbard say at a meeting that the only way to make a million dollars was to form your own religion.

Mr. Moskowitz stated that the meeting referred to was held at the Slovak Circle Hall on Morris Avenue in Newark, New Jersey on November 7, 1948. That the meeting was held with Mr. Hubbard in attendance was verified by two reports. FANTASY TIMES 12-15-48 issue on Page 6 states that the Society held a meeting on November 7 with Mr. L. Ron Hubbard as guest speaker. The FANTASY ANNUAL 1948 issue on Page 54 contains a summary of the monthly meetings of the Eastern Science Fiction Society. This also stated that Mr. Hubbard was guest speaker at the November meeting. Mr. Alex Osheroff, Treasurer at the time, has advised Mr. Moskowitz that the minutes of the November 7, 1948 meeting are in existence. These minutes show that during the question and answer period, Mr. Hubbard spoke on his work “EXCALIBUR”. It was during these remarks that the statement about forming your own religion was made. Twenty-three people were in attendance at the meeting. These included Mr. Moskowitz, Mr. Osheroff, Mr. Alan Howard, Mr. Martin Greenberg, and Mr. Oswald Train. The current addresses for Mr. Howard and Mr. Greenberg were not known by Mr. Moskowitz. Mr. Train is a publisher whose address is 1129 West Wingohocking Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (phone no. DA 4-7738).

Following the meeting, several of the people in attendance, and Mr. Hubbard, went to the Hickory Grill and subsequently to Mr. Moskowitz’s home. While at the home, Mr. Train was hypnotized by Hubbard in an attempt to treat Mr. Train’s stuttering problem. Mr. Moskowitz had offered to pay Hubbard $100 if he could cure or even improve Mr. Train’s speech impediment. Mr. Hubbard was unsuccessful.

Mr. Hubbard did not attend any other meetings of the Society and Mr. Moskowitz was not in attendance at any other meetings where Mr. Hubbard may have spoken about forming your own religion.

We then discussed various other associates who might be familiar with Mr. Hubbard during the 1946 to 1955 time period. During these conversations, Mr. Moskowitz supplied the following names and addresses.

  1. Mr. John W. Campbell 1457 Orchard Road Mountainside, New Jersey (Phone No. AD 3-3420)

    Mr. Campbell was the publisher of “Amazing Science Fiction” and was the first person to hire Mr. Hubbard as a writer. He currently is employed by “Analog Science Fiction”. He may have information concerning Mr. Hubbard from 1938 to around 1952.

  2. Mr. A.E. van Vogt 7089 Hawthorn Los Angeles, California (Phone No. 463-7377)

    Mr. van Vogt is a writer who became involved in “Dianetics”. He set up the Los Angeles Dianetics Center around June or July 1950. He since has become disillusioned with Mr. Hubbard.

  3. Mr. Arthur J. Cox — current address unknown. Mr. Cox is a friend of Mr. van Vogt and wrote a two-part article on van Vogt which appeared in the “Science Fiction Advertiser”. The second of the two articles appeared in the July 1952 issue. The editor of this booklet was Mr. Edward Ludwig. In the second article, Mr. Cox refers to various letters from Hubbard to van Vogt discussing “EXCALIBUR” and “Dianetics”. The article also mentions that Hubbard was present at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society on several occasions in 1948. The minutes of these meetings are reported in Shangri-la issues Nos. 5, 6 and 7. The one of primary interest is the April 15, 1948 meeting which is reported in Shangri-la no. 6 on Page 9. A copy of this page is attached for the record.

  4. Forrest Ackerman — L. Ron Hubbard’s agent still living somewhere in California but his current address is unknown.

  5. Mr. William Blackbeard — Mr. Blackbeard wrote an article entitled “Pip-squeak Prometheus Some Remarks on the Writings of L. Ron Hubbard”. This article originally appeared in 1948 in a local Journal and later was republished with some changes in the October 1952 issue of “Inside” starting on Page 23. Mr. Moskowitz has a copy of this article. It is an >interesting analysis of Hubbard as a writer and also mentions the E meter.

    Mr. Moskowitz also has in his possession a copy of the book entitled “Self Analysis in Scientology” copyright 1952 by L. Ron Hubbard; second printing 1953. I did not recall seeing this book during the early investigations of Scientology. In addition, there is an article in the November 1970 issue of “Amazing Science Fiction” entitled “Dianetics” — a personal report by Barry Molzberg.

    Mr. Moskowitz stated that when Mr. Hubbard went into “Dianetics” and subsequently “Scientology,” he did not keep track of him because this did not deal with science fiction. He does have a file on “Dianetics” and one on “Scientology.” Most of the information in these files are clippings from magazines and newspapers. The majority of these are personal opinion articles either pro or con on “Dianetics” and “Scientology.” They add very little, if anything, to information already at hand.

    Mr. Moskowitz stated he will continue to look through his files in an effort to uncover another meeting at which he thought Hubbard made the same remark about forming your own religion. Should he encounter the report on this, he will contact me. It appears Mr. Moskowitz’s prime value is as a historian who has available early articles concerning Mr. Hubbard’s movements and contacts.

    Charles Everline

Please note: The bold items are to highlight the specific related claims are not higlighted in the original quoted text.

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It doesn't appear that he wrote it, however many sources say he did say it, or something very similar at a sci fi convention in 1948.

In 1948 he described a method which could solve his financial problems. He has been quoted as telling a science fiction convention in 1948: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

-Methvin, Eugene H. (May 1990). "Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult". Reader's Digest. pp. 16. According to this.

Numerous people report the same or similar statement at the time:

Response to a question from the audience during a meeting of the Eastern Science Fiction Association on (7 November 1948), as quoted in a 1994 affidavit by Sam Moskowitz.

This statement is similar or identical to several statements Hubbard is reported to have made to various individuals or groups in the 1940s. Variants include:

The incident is stamped indelibly in my mind because of one statement that Ron Hubbard made. What led him to say what he did I can't recall — but in so many words Hubbard said: "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is!" L. Ron Hubbard to Lloyd A. Eshbach, in 1949; as quoted by Eshbach in his autobiography Over My Shoulder: Reflections On A Science Fiction Era (1983) ISBN 1-880418-11-8

Y'know, we're all wasting our time writing this hack science fiction! You wanta make real money, you gotta start a religion! As reported to Mike Jittlov by Theodore Sturgeon as a statement Hubbard made while at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society clubhouse in the 1940s.

Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times (27 August 1978)

Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion. As quoted in the article "Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult" by Eugene H. Methvin. Reader's Digest (May 1980)

I always knew he was exceedingly anxious to hit big money — he used to say he thought the best way to do it would be to start a cult. Sam Merwin, Editor of Thrilling Science Fiction magazine Winter of 1946-47; quoted in Bare-Faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (1987) by Russell Miller

Whenever he was talking about being hard up he often used to say that he thought the easiest way to make money would be to start a religion. Neison Himmel, briefly a roommate of Hubbard in Pasadena during the fall of 1945, in a 1986 interview, quoted in Bare-Faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (1987) by Russell Miller

-http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard

  • You might want to include this white paper as a reference, and the court documents cited there. Summary: Courts have reviewed the evidence and determined that this constitutes a false (actionable) claim. – Wildcard Mar 1 '17 at 6:21
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The claim should be broken up into pieces:

Did Mr. Hubbard write or publish that the way to make a million dollars is to start a religion? Obviously not, or his writings would have been cited, but that's fairly obvious and not really helpful.

Did Mr. Hubbard state verbally (publicly or privately) that the way to make a million dollars is to start a religion?

The page you have linked cites essentially all available evidence that he did. All of it, of course, is hearsay and hardly conclusive one way or the other, as you correctly pointed out in your question.

It is worth noting that the page you cite, while it does mention evidence (dueling affidavits) counter to the conclusion reached, has failed to examine all available sources regarding German courts' actions in respect to the claim:

I believe that these dueling affidavits have met in court. Stern, a German magazine, was sued by the Church, and the suit was thrown out of court after they obtained the Moskowitz affidavit.

It's unclear if this is presented simply as a belief (as implied by the first sentence) or as a fact (as implied by the second), because no evidence or source is provided.

The Church of Scientology has published an article devoted to debunking this claim. Included therein are two documents purported to demonstrate the Munich court's rulings on this subject: a 1982 Munich Court judgment and a 1986 Munich Court judgment. They are not in German, but appear to be credible scans of translations of relevant document. The Church summarizes them as follows:

In 1982, a Court in Munich, Germany, found that L. Ron Hubbard never made the statement and enjoined a German publisher, on penalty of a fine or jail sentence, from printing the claim. (Landgericht München I, case no. 9 0 19 087/82, 1982 ) In 1986, the Church of Scientology of Bavaria also obtained an injunction against another German publisher prohibiting republication of the falsehood. (Landgericht München I, case no. 9 0 17718/86, 1986 )


The evidence so far, while it might be enough to discourage litigation-shy publishers from making the claim, isn't definitive, of course. It still amounts to, "He said ____," and "No he didn't."

We can, however, go a little further in this by examining some of L. Ron Hubbard's relevant statements on the nature of religion, Scientology and money. I would expect to find evidence of such an attitude expressed directly or indirectly, if the original claim were true. While not directly evidence for or against the claim, these statements are given to assist the reader in evaluating the likelihood that L. Ron Hubbard made a statement about earning money by starting a religion.

In other words, these are evidence relevant to the question:

Did L. Ron Hubbard believe or act upon the idea that the way to make a million dollars is to start a religion?

In a interview carried out by writing and published in Rocky Mountain News February 20, 1983, L. Ron Hubbard wrote:

A thing most people don't know is that it was Scientologists who elected that it be a church and so it became. I actually never founded it, although they call me Founder because I founded the subject, not the organizations. Because I like to help people, I helped them all I could, up until 1966, when I resigned. I still research in this field and still write books about it. I still get mail bags full of letters every week. They are actually doing great and I wish them well.

In a 1970 article, "What Your Donations Buy," L. Ron Hubbard wrote the following:

Occasionally some church or mission goes on a big kick of high pay. We very soon pull the rug out from under that. So if your donation went that way for a brief period we corrected the outness fast as we frown on money-motivation like a thundercloud.

Some fringe fellows know that if you had a complete monopoly on the only workable mental technology on the planet you could make billions. That's why they're on the "fringe." So we prevent your donation from going in that direction.

There is another statement he's made about money and Dianetics that I've encountered before which remains elusive just now; I'll add it if I come across it.


It should be kept in mind that Scientologists understandably perceive this claim as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of their religion by degrading it to a money-making scheme on the part of the Founder. So the claim is not exactly innocuous; it gets into religious discrimination (or justifying such) very rapidly.


My own conclusion:

I do not believe L. Ron Hubbard ever made such a statement, though I would believe it of many of his contemporaries. The evidence is sketchy, and I don't even think he particularly cared about money, based on examination of his writings and stated opinions. The motivation for those originally making and repeating the claim appears to me to be disparagement without particular concern for accuracy.

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    nytimes.com/1984/07/11/us/… - people who set up the phony transactions, accounts, and who couriered cash would and did say differently about whether he cared about money. I believe the sum, back then, was at least $35 million pocketed by Hubbard from the "church." Not sure why you deleted your previous answer, this is not fundamentally different. Since you are noting court cases as substantive proof, note that in the cited US case, the court found Hubbard to be "paranoid and delusional." So not disparagement. – PoloHoleSet Mar 2 '17 at 19:26
  • @PoloHoleSet, that piece is by exact definition a hatchet job: "a fierce attack on someone or their work, especially in print." It is religious discrimination and attacks by apostates—and you'd do well to note what religious scholars have to say about the known phenomena of unreliability of apostates for information on their former religion. – Wildcard Mar 2 '17 at 20:04
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    As I pointed out in comments earlier... all the court rulings show is that the paper did not meet the courts standards for defense against the defamation claim. It does not show that the claims were not made, or that the article was incorrect. Beyond that the rest of the answer seeks to defend Scientology which is completely irrelevant to the claim. Even if Hubbard decided to pursue the founding of Scientology as a method to get rich that does not mean that he did not believe his teachings, or that his teachings are untrue. There are lots of Mega Church founders that are rich and believe. – Chad Mar 2 '17 at 21:47
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    @Wildcard - Either of them are bad for skeptics. Which is why i wanted references from sources before Scientology became popular. Anything that happened afterwords has a potential for that sort of bias. – Chad Mar 2 '17 at 22:44
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    @Wildcard - I have no opinion on the validity of the teachings of Scientology. Honestly their claims of creation are no more or less magical, mystical, or far fetched than those of any other religion when looking at the base claims. So saying that you are either for or against Scientology is ignoring a large population that are neither. – Chad Mar 2 '17 at 22:52

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