"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"
Reader's Digest reprint, May 1980, p.1
Later he created the Church of Scientology.
This is a very famous quote. I believe that something is only as strong as the foundations on which it is built. The foundations of Scientology are L Ron Hubbard, and this is why I'm including this quote.
A good discussion on this is found here. More information can be found on the Urban Legends web site
The Church's media guide tells reporters that the rumor is confused, and that it was George Orwell who said it. In 1938, Orwell did write "But I have always thought there might be a lot of cash in starting a new religion...". However, Robert Vaughn Young, who was Scientology's spokesman for 20 years, says that Hubbard learned about the Orwell quote from him. Young further states that he met three people who could remember Hubbard saying more-or-less the famous quote. Nor did Hubbard write a rebuttal of the rumor -- Young claims to have ghost-written the rebuttal in the Rocky Mountain News interview.
I found the following in books about Hubbard and Scientology: "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." -- reporter Neison Himmel: quoted in Bare Faced Messiah p.117 from 1986 interview. Himmel shared a room with LRH, briefly, Pasadena, fall 1945.
"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, then the editor of the Thrilling SF magazines: quoted in Bare Faced Messiah p.133 from 1986 interview. Winter of 1946/47.
"Around this time he was invited to address a science fiction group in Newark hosted by the writer, Sam Moskowitz. `Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous,' he told the meeting. `If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.' -- Bare Faced Messiah p.148. Reference given to LA Times, 27 Aug 78. Supposed to have happened in spring 1949.
On the side of the negative, a court document delcares Jay Kay Klien as saying:
On November 7, 1948, I attended a meeting of the Eastern Science Fiction Associaton at Slovak Sokol Hall in Newark, New Jersey.
L. Ron Hubbard was introduced by Sam Moskowitz as a "Renaissance Man", citing his attainments and accomplishments for this designation.
Nowhere in L. Ron Hubbard's lecture that followed do I recall there having been mention of religion as a means of acquiring money, nor do I recall anything of this nature in the following question and answer period.
Indeed, such material would have been out of place in a talk about the future course of events as they would affect human beings on this planet.
[signed Jay Kay Klien]
Scientology's web pages have a statement on this subject, and it can be found here. They say:This is an unfounded rumor. One individual once claimed L. Ron Hubbard made such a comment during a lecture in 1948. The only two people who could be found who attended that very lecture in 1948 denied that Mr. Hubbard ever made this statement. And Mr. Hubbard himself certainly denied it [See quoted declaration above - BW].
Another famous writer from the same era who did make such a statement was George Orwell, who wrote to a friend in 1938 that "there might be a lot of cash in starting a new religion." His letter was later published as part of a collection of letters which was circulated widely. It seems that Orwell's comment has been misattributed to Mr. Hubbard. This was recognized by courts in Germany who enjoined those who had attributed such a statement to Mr. Hubbard from repeating it.
You will need to read all the information on all the referenced web sites, but I believe, that on balance, it is more likely than not that L. Ron Hubbard did utter this quote, and also made similar statements on other occasions.