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April 9th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

Elaborate hoax: No, Joel Osteen has not renounced his faith

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

Washington (CNN) – Joel Osteen, the popular megachurch pastor from Houston, is the target of an Internet hoax that falsely reported the Christian leader was leaving his church and renouncing his faith.

On a website designed to mimic Osteen’s official website, the pranksters posted “A special message from Pastor Joel.” The post describes the Bible as “a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times” and announces that Osteen plans to leave his Lakewood Church.

Osteen and church staff  labeled the website a fraud and said the idea that he was leaving the faith was a "false rumor."

According to the website's registration, Lucas Skass with BMG Enterprises LLC, who lists his residence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, purchased the domain name on April 1 of this year – April Fools Day.

Calls to the number listed for Skass, as well as people associated with BMG Enterprises LLC, have gone unanswered.

"I am leaving the Christian faith," says a big banner near the top of the page.

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In addition to the announcement, the website posted a fake screenshot of CNN.com that included a falsified headline about Osteen’s supposed decision. The pranksters also launched an associated Twitter account that has since been suspended.

The website - http://www.joelostenministries.com/ - spells Osteen’s name wrong and comes with an elaborate disclaimer.

“This site is the property of Pastor Joel Osten and Joel Osten Ministries. It bears no relation to ‘Joel Osteen’ or ‘Lakewood Church,’" the disclaimer reads. “Any implication or relation to 'Joel Osteen' and the 'Lakewood Church' is purely coincidental. 'Joel Osteen' is not in any way involved or related to this site and references to 'Joel Osteen' are, again, entirely coincidental.”

In an interview with ABC News, Osteen dismissed the prank.

“You know, I’m really not angry. I don’t feel like a victim,” Osteen said. “I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down.”

He continued: “You can’t stop everything from happening, but you can choose to say, ‘God, it’s in your hands.’ I’m going to move forward. I’m going stay full of joy and I’m going to enjoy this day.”

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Though Osteen dismissed the hoax, many on Twitter fell for it and were shocked by the announcement.

When one person on Twitter asked Osteen directly whether he was leaving the church, someone managing Osteen’s Twitter account responded by knocking down the false report.

Osteen has led the 45,000-person church since 1999, after his father, the founder of Lakewood Church, stepped down. He is one of the most recognizable faces in American Christianity and his ministry says Osteen’s sermons reach some 10 million people a week in over 100 countries.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Pastors

soundoff (1,629 Responses)
  1. Nothing matters. And what if it did?

    “You know, I’m really not angry. I don’t feel like a victim,” Osteen said. “I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down.”-Joel Olsteen, quote from this article.

    Compare and contrast this at.itude with that of the angry, young atheists who spend SOOO much time infesting the CNN Belief Blog message boards. LOL. Get a life you petulant little losers !!!

    April 9, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • the real Tom

      I'm not young OR angry.

      I just like making fun of people who deserve ridicule. Like you.

      April 9, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Nothing matters. And what if it did?

      I peruse these boards fairly frequently while at work. Boredom drives one to strange things, LOL.

      I know all about you, Tommy Girl.

      April 9, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • the real Tom

      Gee, I'm terrified. Who gives a sh!t what you know or what you do?

      April 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • clarity

      Now calm down, Nothing matters – here – I tell you what – I'll sing you a lullaby to calm you down – I only know part of the lyrics – it's actually my own version of "A House is Not a Home", OK?

      A tomb is just a tomb . . .
      epecially when there's no one there who saw who left the room . . .
      But a tomb is not a house . .
      And a house is not a home . .
      da da da da da da da da da . .

      There, you should be asleep by now.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Nothing matters. And what if it did?

      Obviously, YOU do. LOL.

      And you spend hours and hours on these message boards trying to convince others that they are deluded. And all because you like boys instead of girls. Shame. Real Shame.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      what else one must expect from hindu atheists, ignorant self centered, they obey hindu Monkey, stupid secular, self centered as their one of hindu fabricated gods, and claim to be his children. They belong in a Zoo, not among human.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • clarity

      LMAO! I can only assume that "Nothing.." is replying to Tom or I which is pretty funny considering... LOL I gues this person is new and doesn't know the se-x or marital status of some of the regulars like myself. Oh that is rich; lol.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • clarity

      I'll let Tom speak for herself, but you have no idea how much of an ass you just made of yourself, "Nothing...." LOL.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Akira

      What a tool. Tommy GIRL does like "boys" (what are you? 9?) instead of girls mainly...um...because she IS a girl.
      What a fucktard. You sound like Douglas with that Tommy girl bullshit.

      The shame, real shame, is that you haven't "perused" the boards enough to parse that information.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Larry

      Judging from the posts, there are just as many "young and angry" Christians out there who aren't fans of Osteen.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Val

      Tell "blake" up above that he's a loser.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Akira

      Larry:
      You're right...the comments seem to be more geared towards Osteen's faux proselytizing smarmy persona than anything...

      April 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Larry

      Actually, I'm retired, drawing a good pension, and I have a great patio chair and wifi. Reading isn't nearly as entertaining, some of the time. 🙂

      April 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • albie

      You have to ask yourself ... why exactly are so many people so angry with people like you? I can give you a hint, its not just for the heck of it

      April 10, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • JeffJ

      It's almost cliche, more self-proclaimed "atheists" are more emotionally driven by the topic of Christianity than Christians. They don't believe in God, they claim Christianity is a delusional belief, yet the very topic of Christianity strikes a nerve in them. How can one be so emotional over something they do not believe in?

      A hindu man talks to me about his belief, I said to him "thank you sir, but I do not accept your belief. have a nice day." and I move on with my life. I think it would be ridiculous if I stay an hour berating him about how wrong he is and how ridiculous his belief is and why I do not believe in it.

      True Atheists won't be here in this forum, b/c when they saw the topic of Christianity or religion, it doesn't interest them. Just like how when I see the topics that are not interesting to me, I wouldn't read them. Only "atheists" in this thread are "ex-Christians" ... those who were brought up probably by a more traditional background with false beliefs of promises that later went unfulfilled. Let's face it, people don't chose to walk away from God because they don't think God exists, they walk away from God because they believe God is "unfair." And by unfair, I mean "they don't get what they want because Santa God didn't give it to them." So they cry, they rebel, and they get angry at those who remained in the faith b/c it is a reflection of their OWN failure with Christianity, success of other's faith makes them feel like losers.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Colin

      Actually, Jeff, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

      The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

      The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

      The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

      Throwing the three together into one being cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

      We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

      The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

      The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

      We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

      We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

      We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.

      Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

      We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

      “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, because an inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is not even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

      When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

      It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

      To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

      So Jeff, before you next proudly proclaim you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

      Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling and supplicating yourself before something, at least make it something that exists. You sound pathetic.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • JeffJ

      @ Colin.

      Looks like I hit a nerve with you. Thanks for proving my point. 🙂

      April 10, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • BigFoot

      Actually, Jeff, he just wiped the floor with you. Count your losses and move on.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • clarity

      And after your finished absorbing Colin's floor, Jeffy, I have a new ceiling for you at the top.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Pete

      JeffJ
      "How can one be so emotional over something they do not believe in?"
      By no means do all atheists do this, but most of the ones here are posting comments in protest of religious beliefs. Take any other group that is protesting the actions and beliefs of another, the vegans, the environmentalists, MADD, "Pro-Life" ... none of them believe in what they are protesting. That's the point, isn't it?

      April 10, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Larry

      JeffJ
      If only more Christians said to us "Thank you sir, but I do not accept your belief that God isn't real. Have a nice day."

      BTW Pretty much every atheist I know has a keen interest in religion but, more importantly, they were not afraid to question what they were taught to believe. I walked away from God precisely because I learned enough to finally conclude that God doesn't exist. The only person that I got mad with was myself for being too lazy not to start checking what my pastors were telling me sooner. If, by posting here, I can nudge others into checking their own facts sooner I would consider my time here well spent.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  2. Textured

    What baffles me the most is not the fact that there are religious people... is the fact that they are the majority !!!.. I still cant understand how humans, with such highly functional brains and intellect can still believe and follow such myths as God The Creator and Jesus the Savior... I guess we are far from "civilized".... after all, we kill each other by the thousands every year for no apparent good reason .. OMG !!!!

    April 9, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Juanito

      In our arrogance we boast how intelligent and sophisticated we've become. But in boasting we show the complete lack of humility which germinates doctrine, dogma and genocide.

      Simon Weisenthau was a concentration camp survivor who helped track down former nazis after the war. He was asked how can a nation that was leading the industrialized world in economics, culture, science and education become the primed culprit of what was to become the worlds most diabolical mass murderer of the of modern times.

      His reply was 'how could it have NOT happened?'. The people believed in a certainty which forsakened knowledge as well as the humility to ask 'could i be wrong?' .

      And we do this so often with God. We try to reckon with a superior understanding of that which created us, and because we can't put God in a box to conform to our understanding, we deny Him.

      God doesn't need to be proved. He is, always was, and always will be.

      In the love of Jesus, Lord and Savior, Juanito.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Good thing you Christians are all in favor of humility, because you've got lots to be humble ABOUT.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • pfr1nk

      @juanito'
      There is nothing humble about thinking you will live forever and that the creator of the universe loves you personally. That is the epitome of EGO!

      April 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Gavin Ford

    He hasn't renounced his creepiness either.

    April 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Cy Newitt

    Joel Olsteen has a hot wife and lots of money. The loser, atheist trolls who infest CNN don't. Go, Joel, go !!!

    April 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Oh yea, because how hot your wife is and how much money you have automatically makes the criticisms people levy against him invalid. Makes perfect sense

      /sarcasm

      April 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • the real Tom

      Cy, do YOU have a hot wife and lots of money?

      No, you have an old smelly sock and you live in your mom's basement.

      April 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  5. JoelisaFraudandheknowsit

    Why would he leave such a profitable venture?

    April 9, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  6. Joshua Farmer

    This guy is a false prophet...or if not, very close to one.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Billy

      "false prophet."

      that's redundant

      April 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  7. bspurloc

    only the spaghetti monster knows

    April 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  8. Most people have never read the Bible

    Not sure why Joel Osteen would want to try and distance himself from such spot on comments. The post describes the Bible as “a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times”. In fact everything the pranksters stated is quite true.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    "The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest, richest and least productive industries in history."
    – Robert Heinlein

    April 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    snake oil salesman will always find gullible folk to give them money. Best thing for Joel is that all of his cash is tax free! Thanks US Government! What a crock!

    April 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Cy Newitt

      Hey, doG, LOL. Ever done it with a girl?

      April 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  11. thegadfly

    This just in: Joel Osteen missed the opportunity of a lifetime, and will now have to continue down into his spiral of lies and deception (apparently of himself among others). Just keep smiling, Joel. Those pearly whites will soon be skeletal, as will all of ours.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  12. AJG

    Why would he leave a business that is making him rich?

    April 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  13. Tom

    He will never renouncing his faith, he is making wayyyyyy to much money keeping his so-called faith. And he dont have to pay any taxes for the humdreds of millions of dollars he makes. He is what I call a 'shyster'.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Quest ion

      How do you know that?

      How do you know he does not pay taxes?

      How do you know how much money he makes?

      Are you with the Government?

      Are you with the IRS?

      Are you just a parrot?

      April 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      he stilll has to pay income taxes on his salary

      April 10, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  14. bob

    I actually had a few seconds of admiration for that charlatan, hoping that he would donate his millions to charity, until noting it was all a hoax.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  15. Chris

    The website listed in the article contains malware. You have been warned. CNN you really need to validate your links before posting. Your editorial staff gets an F for not reviewing the site.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  16. Pokydoke

    Joel knows his teachings are pure camel dung but he makes so much money from his sheeple he can't quite bring himself to tell the truth. He knows there is no heaven and no hell and no punishment after death but he won't tell you that.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • SDCinNS

      And you know what he thinks.. how?

      April 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • sally ortiz

      you're going to find out there's is a hell - you're going to burn in it for eternity!

      April 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • sally ortiz

      You're going to find out there is a hell - you're going to burn in it FOREVER!!!

      April 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm |

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxYsi5Y-xOQ

      April 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Joshua Farmer

      Exactly. Just as you think there isn't, I know there is.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Billy

      Tell us how you know, Joshua.

      April 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • USA Yes We Can

      It sounds like you want us to believe that you are the all knowing. Judge ye lest ye be Judged.

      April 9, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  17. A Nation of Imbeciles

    Big f*****g deal.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  18. SDCinNS

    Have you read his theology? He left the faith ages ago!

    April 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Salero21

      I probably will agree with you in that; but everyone deserves a second chance; don't you think?

      April 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  19. William House

    Bigotry is not Love.
    Delusion is not Faith.
    Lies are not Truth.
    Discrimination is not Justice.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Austin

      God's judgments against sin are not discriminatory, the same judgments stand for all men and women. No one is special. No one has the right to declare a more righteous standard than God. God's judgments are for the good of man, they bring blessings.

      April 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • lol??

      Tired of house brew. Quit refillin' the bottles.

      April 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      " No one has the right to declare a more righteous standard than God."
      Yet preacher after preacher does just that, and you foolish xtians refuse to call them on it
      You deserve the public abuse you get.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Akira

      Austin, what makes you think William House is talking about God?

      April 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • lol

      you've got to be kidding right, evil? you really think we care what the world thinks?

      April 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      austin: "god's judgements" are a bad joke, an empty threat

      get back on your knees

      April 10, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • sam stone

      "No one has the right to declare a more righteous standard than God"

      I do.

      I never called for entire civilizations to be wiped out

      I never knocked up a virgin and left the world to deal with the blatherings of the illegitimate child

      April 10, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Austin

      Sam, there are many parts about faith that are a given inclusive concerning God, who is the author of all things spiritual. God the father does not reside on earth, and His Godliness included a sinless , atoning sacrifice of His own life, not as a ritual, but to meet the needs of atonement.

      It pleased God to submit His "Son" as a bruised and battered sacrifice because through it you are glorified, you go from death to life. And you can be born twice with a personal connection to the Creator God. Repent. Then kingdom of heaven is at hand.

      April 10, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  20. lol??

    "Rom 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance."

    Yup, you will be judged for what you do with the gifts. Don't pray for too many unless you LIKE lots O judgement.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • cjklepper

      Repentence? Do you even know the word? Judgement? Come on, there's many version of the Bible and many interpretation of Romans 11:29.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:25 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.