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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

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. RichardSRussell

    He HASN'T renounced his faith?

    Too bad. Everybody should. Faith is the world's absolute WORST method of making decisions.

    Nobody ever relies on faith to arrive at conclusions about anything that matters — and CERTAINLY not about anything that can be checked.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Would such a change require that another have "faith" that you are correct?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Mark, this does not make sense. One does not need to have faith in order to have a lack of faith.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mark,

      no.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • GAW

      Geez I make thousands of decisions everyday without conferring with science.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • david e.

      In all honesty, who cares about a second rate televangelist? He rode his father's coat-tails and is irrelevant.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      In honesty, just because he is not relevant to you does not mean he is irrelevant. Michael Moore is not relevant to me but he does has his supporters to whom he is relevant

      .

      April 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  2. shannon

    Too bad. I thought maybe he actually got enlightened for real.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • david e.

      This is the most truthful posting here. Well said.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  3. crash14

    Everyone has been a Joel Osteen hater for a long time, because he's not the "traditional Pastor" everyone is used to. He is a motivational speaker, as well as an excellent speaker of "The Word". Nothing wrong with that. This swamp sludge of a world needs more people like him. All you hear about is gun issues, the North Korean version of the "Big Boy", ObamaCare (or Obama I Don't Care), economic issues, or thoroughly disturbed people going on killing rampages. It's sad and ironic that out of all this dispair, Joel Osteen is the one always targeted. Wonder why? I'm sure it has nothing to do with Satan trying to distinguish the light in this world...Nah...cause according to Atheists, there is no God, henceforth, no Devil. People do bad things just because they're bad people....Born that way I guess....I don't know. Maybe if you would actually listen to 1 sermon, just 1 sermon by him, you may actually get something out of it. I'm not trying to persuade you to the "light side", but listen to the positive theories he mentions to give you hope. Again, what's wrong with that?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Something tells me you haven't been paying attention.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      watched a sermon... still not interested in the used cars he's selling...

      April 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'I'm sure it has nothing to do with Satan trying to distinguish the light in this world...Nah...cause according to Atheists, there is no God, henceforth, no Devil.'

      correct, it has nothing to do with the devil, because he doesnt exist. baby steps, but you are getting there.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Thomas ReichName*

      Obviously, you are another Christian who's never bothered to read the Bible. People mock Olsteen because what he preaches about personal wealth contradicts everything Jesus said about the subject. Every verse on the subject of money or the rich makes it clear. You have to give up your wealth to follow him. It's laughable that people who buy what Olsteen is selling can even be called Christian.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • ThinkingIsFun

      There are very few "bad" people walking around. People do bad things because of socio-economic disparity, lack of opportunity, and having been denied the minimum healthcare, education, and standard of living that could be afforded to everyone without people like Joel Osteen hoarding vast wealth in opposition to the teachings he supposedly espouses.

      April 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  4. Alex Dumas

    Sorry...didn't mean to post the Bible quote twice...^^^^^^^^^^^

    April 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  5. Thoth

    There's a reason Joel Olsteen has perma-grin; he knows he's filthy rich because of human stupidity.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Is that why Obama is always smiling?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Always Amazed

      It always amazes me how the non-religious people out there are so ultra cynical and all knowing that they believe that everybody who follows a religion is ignorant, unaware, and under some kind of mind control. Your professed knowledge is matched only by your ignorance.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • cristian

      I guess everybody will find out in the end who is stupid and who's not. U will have absolutely no excuse at that time...u have been warned.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Those Lakewood churchgoers on TV look like they are under a mind control spell.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Incorrect! When we are all dead, we won't find out anything, because we'll be dead. Consciousness will no longer exist : )

      April 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Mark – why bring Obama into this? I hardly think his net worth would compare to Olsteen's.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Always Amazed – well, if you are 'always amazed' by the same action over and over.....that would imply rather simplistic cognitive function....

      April 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Thoth, is there a monetary figure that then is the bases of your dislike of Olsten? The facts are that Obama is a multi millionaire and in his pursuit to make sure that less and less people obtain wealth, ...he is always smiling.

      Ever wonder why, since the stock market is up and unemployment is also up that Obama is smiling a lot lately.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Mark – I'm sure you think you made some point there – not sure what. As for your presumption of 'hate', I wish Olsteen no ill-will, and honestly think the website attack on him was childish (but then I suppose my poking fun at his grin is as well). Olsteen is a great orator, and talented actor. Facts are facts though, and he has what he has because he feeds those desperate souls so they can feel better about themselves and their 'eternity'.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Your professed knowledge is matched only by your ignorance."

      Nothing like painting all non believers with one brush

      I suppose then it would be consistent to say that theists professed knowledge is matched only by their arrogance

      April 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Sam – I suspect 'Amazed' probably just heard that in a movie and was so amazed they decided to use it in an attempt to be witty. Ironically they reveal their own ignorance of the meaning of the phrase considering I didn't 'profess any knowledge', but merely made an off-the-cuff quip in jest.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • TheVoid

      @cristian

      I don't think so. I don't believe you'll find out a darn thing in the end. Nothingness awaits you. You will simply cease to be. One moment you'll be an ignorant, easily duped human, stumbling through your life denying the curiosity that would have made your life worth living...and then you'll be gone.

      April 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  6. TC

    Wow. Growing up Catholic, this is the first I've heard that the main purpose of taking communion was to show support for the church and all it's teaching. Hhere, all along, I though it was a re-enactment of the last supper that brings and joins all Christians together at one "table".

    April 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      They did not eat christs flesh and drink his blood at the last supper.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @TC,

      I'm guessing you crossed topics here.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  7. whoblackmailspeople

    how does one defraud a fraud?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Segoy

      How can you believe anyone cares what you think?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  8. WatcherInTheWoods

    You have to be IN the faith first, before you can leave it....think about that...those who preach a different "Christ" or 'gospel' haven't arrived yet...

    April 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      so which of the 40,000 versions of christianity is the right one?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Peter

      Mormonism, Yep the Mormons got it right.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  9. Maleficent

    Of COURSE he hasn't renounced his "faith". It continues to make/keep him rich!

    April 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • P. R.

      Bingo!!!

      April 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • cindy

      So, Christians can't be rich?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      No cindy.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • ttown419

      it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle–the bible....somewhere

      April 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • ALAZAR

      That's the difference between blessed and MALEFICIENT, which in fact you are, you should add DEFICIENT, and some other names that would go along with that one, but for now, let's just say that you are jealous because he is blessed and you are not, maybe one of this days you will accept Christ in your heart and maybe your name will change to something positive, in the meantime my gay friend, go and pray for some wisdom, God knows you can use some.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  10. Patrick

    I can't help but think that when Joel Osteen was born, his head and face looked exactly like they do now.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  11. magnus

    Lighten up everyone. It was a joke and very harmless. Relax

    April 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Is anyone here upset that this prank happened?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  12. are122

    It is always amusing on these sites to read how religion is a myth, just a money grabber, and for those that never read a physics book..."science has disproved it." The one thing they all have in common is no mention of how things came about. What created the laws that govern the universe? Why for instance is there gravity? So many questions and so few answers. I believe the physicist Paul Davies in his book "The mind of God" explains it best but I doubt any of the "science explains it all" people have actually read anything like it. Incidentally, absolutely nothing in the Bible refers to the age of the earth...for the many that don't know that.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      *yawn*

      I was having some tea. And I happened upon your post, and I would like to respond in depth to your statements!

      Deities does not exist before man walked the earth.

      The end.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'absolutely nothing in the Bible refers to the age of the earth...for the many that don't know that.'

      dont tell us, tell the lot that use it to claim a 6000 years old Earth.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      How did things come about?

      Science hasn't explained it. It's entirely possible that science never WILL explain it.

      So what would you rather settle for, an honest "nobody knows" or some fairy tale made up by a bunch of self-important, ignorant, bloodthirsty nomadic shepherds 4000 years ago? A fairy tale, not at all incidentally, in which they have a starring role as the Chosen People?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  13. OFC Old Fashion Christian

    Joel Osteen leaving the faith? I thought he did that on the day he had the audacity to think that he could sit down at the right hand of God and judge Mitt Romney as a Christian. Remember his "Good enough for me!" statement after he asked Mr. Romney a few generic questions on his faith? Hate to be the breaker of bad news Joel, but in the Bible,not only was your name not listed as the one, who alone, will judge and sits at the right of God, but your name wasn't mentioned at all throughout the entire book! But then again, I 'm just an OFC and not a 21st century Christian like you seem to be.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Now

      Why not join the 21st Century? God is still creating. The Bible points to hope in the future.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Delicious hope for the future. Armageddon sure looks like a pleasant party! That book, always so full of hope and happy warm feelings of peace and love and good happiness!

      April 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  14. OldMo

    Technically speaking, wouldn't you actually have to have a faith before you denounced it?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  15. Fundies Gone Wild!! They are panicking!!

    May as well boycott the Nats if they are going to open with a greaseball!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=360]

    April 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • paulm5545

      Good Lord, that was absolutely HILARIOUS!!! That was one of the best video's I've seen in a long time.

      April 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  16. kennyzales

    Hoaxes by atheists are pretty transparent in terms of identifying their lack of moral fiber. Regardless of my beliefs, I could never be an atheist. They're just too big a bunch of @$$h0les.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      and you just showed your lack of moral fiber.
      you shouldnt hate you know, that gets you a one way ticket to hell.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Thank you for your warm thoughts and kind wishes. The almighty will be pleased deeply to see what you think of us.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Hoaxes by atheists? By that I assume you mean all that evolutionary sciencey stuff?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      There"s that love for their fellow man that I have come to expect from christians

      April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Billy

      With those baseless assumptions it seem you are the one in need of a little fiber in your diet.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • magnus

      Jesus would disagree with your hatred.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      About 18% of American adults list "none" when asked what religion they follow, if any. 18% of 315,000,000 works out to 56,700,000 of your fellow citizens. And yes, we're all — each and every one of us — utterly lacking in moral fiber. Thank you for noticing.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • GAW

      Sad to say most of them would be the kind you wouldn't want to go on a vacation with but wouldn't mind them coming to my funeral.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Errol M

      Thanks, Kennyzales for illustrating our point that christians continue to use a two thousand year old myth to single themselves out as better people than us a$$h0les. This a$$h0le athiest spends several hours a week volunteering at a food bank. What does your holier than thou christian a$$ do to enrich the human experience for everyone? post here? congratulations on your endeavor to propel the atheist movement forward simply by showing the christian hate. your efforts will be rewarded when you go to your eternal whatever.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Tom Conlon

    If you were to watch a Joel Osteen sermon, your life would be forever changed for the better. His message is about hope for a better tomorrow. Those of you who insist on writing hateful comments above should consider applying his strategies for success to improve your life. Maybe you wouldn't be so mean and grumpy!

    April 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      My life was forever changed for the better when I switched channels and watched Shrek.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      Gave up a pack a day cigarette habit on my own.

      Gave up two six packs of beer a night on my own.

      Took responsibility for myself after I left my Church which had given me way to many reasons not to for far to long. Without Satan to blame for my wanting another drink and to shirk my dutys as a husband I had to realize I was the only one with any power to change me. Without God to wait on through the inaction of prayer I realized I had no other option than to stand up on my own two feet and not only take the blame for the bad choices I was making but take the credit for the good ones.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • sam

      He's a motivational speaker and makes his living off it. Not much else.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Seriously?!!!

      Nope, sorry. I watched one of his sermons once, to see what the whole buzz was about. Ehh, wake up. It's his better future you and his followers are building. Giving him all your money. Crazy people.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Patrick

      I don't believe in religion or a god for that matter, but to me, Joel is more of an inspirational speaker. He uses his faith in his messages, but I don't mind listening to his sermons. If you take religion out of what he his saying, his message is still the same. People that discredit him just on religion alone probably never heard him speak.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Will

      This man has used your religion to enrich himself beyond the wildest dreams of avarice, and here you are defending him as a true believer. Man, I sometimes wish my parents hadn't raised me to live life as an ethical person; I could be wealthy beyond reckoning if I decided to become a preacher and fleece a megachurch congregation. Ah well.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • MomentisMan

      Let's not confuse what Osteen does with mainline Christianity. To call him a Pastor is a misnomer. He is much more a motivational speaker, akin to Tony Robbins, than he is to a Christian minister. before anyone attempts to dispute my credentials on this, I will say that I have watched nearly 100 hours of Osteen's messages, and am a devout Christian. There is little of Christ's teaching in his message, and he is more apt to quote from the Hebrew Bible than the New Testament. In many cases, the actual teachings of Christ oppose the messages Joel purveys.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Leah

      I have listened to him speak, yes and not really getting what you or others "get" from him when he speaks. He SOMETIMES references one or two bible verses, but then spends the rest of the time telling 'feel good' stores about people who tried really hard and overcame difficulties – big deal. They are surface-level stories at best and never really talk about what that person did to tackle the problem, exactly HOW they relied on God to help them, exactly what steps or actions they took, what God did for them...........nothing. WASTE of time

      April 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  18. jasoncdanforth

    It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    ...well, geez, for a pastor, he should really spend more time reading the book his faith is based on.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      oh dont worry, they like to make some silly claim that the 'needle' was the name of a doorway camels had to apparently crouch down for to get through. No evidence for it but it sounds good justification.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Alex Dumas

      ya think?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Tom

      ^^^^^ THIS. 100%. You nailed it!!!

      Hypocrites, all of them.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Alex Dumas

      Another Bible quote that Joel should perhaps re-read and think about:

      “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew:6)
      Photo: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew:6)

      April 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  19. ANDRE (CHOSEN VESSAL) HIMES

    CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 1 VERSE 27 But GOD HATH chosen the foolish things of this world to confound those who are wise and GOD HATH chosen the weak things of this world to confound those mighty.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      Confounded about the use of your shift and or caps lock key art thou?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • dave

      Why hasn't there been any new chapters added to the Bible in the half dozen centuries or so? How come there are no words of wisdom say from the last 500 years ? Doesn't it seem strange to anyone that God and angles only spoke to humans some 2000 years ago. To humans that had no idea of the world, solar system, galaxy or universe they live in. To humans that thought comets in the sky were omens of disaster.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  20. Rick

    My gaydar goes off the moment I see him, come on now Joel, come out of the closet.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tom Conlon

      He's got a way hotter wife than you do, Rick.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I can't see a picture of Joel Osteen without thinking of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

      Ricky Bobby: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful son's, Walker and Texas Ranger, and my Red-Hot Smokin' Wife, Carley

      April 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      That Victoria Osteen is a delight. Just ask a Continental Airlines flight attendant. (I wonder if she still flies United?)

      April 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
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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.