I was reading this in the Guardian and thought the following readers’ posts might interest the SF fans here (it was news to me):
It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.
In the version I heard, it was Ayn Rand. She bet him he couldn’t start a religion and make money out of it. He won.
The twice told tale that it was Heinlein that Hubbard was drinking with is correct. However it is another SF, writer AE Van Vogt, that was the biggest influence on Scientology after Hubbard himself.
Vogt just written a couple of books with Scientology-like tropes (Slan, for example) and between them they came up with Dianetics, the forerunner to Scientology. Vogt got cold feet early on, as initially the enterprise haemorrhaged money (this was eventually fixed by establishing the movement as a church, to get out of paying tax in the US). Hubbard stuck with it, and we know what happened after that.
There’s a very nice account of all this in the excellent book by John Sladek, “The New Apocrypha”, a debunker’s guide to pseudoscience. Be careful you buy the first edition, though, as those naughty scientologists sued for libel, and according to Sladek himself: “… in lieu of damages, they got to alter the section on Scientology in the British paperback edition—much in the way vets alter tomcats.” That was in 1973, so they’ve been doing it a long time.
Source for Sladek quote - Ansible
Is this widely known in SF circles and is there any credence to it would you say?