July 19, 2005

Writer in need of day job founds religion . . .


“Spiritual leader or sci-fi con artist?” Reminded by the recent antics of Tom Cruise “and Katie Holmes‘ creepy path toward zombie bridedom” of “how truly strange Scientology is,” Michael Crowley takes a look at the writer who started it all: L. Ron Hubbard. In a column for Slate, Crowley says, “To those not in his thrall, Hubbard might be better described as a pulp science-fiction writer who combined delusions of grandeur with a cynical hucksterism.” He shot to fame with his 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which “promised to cure almost any physical and mental ailment — including wrinkles.” It was, says Crowley, an “instant” bestseller, but when fame faded, “Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology. His son Ron Jr. claimed in a 1983 interview with Penthouse that money was the motive, saying his father ‘told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion.'”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him at @mobylives