Joel Osteen is quitting his church and abandoning his Christian faith, according to an elaborate Internet hoax targeting the Texas megapastor.
Osteen, the very visible face of the Lakewood Church in Houston since 1999, is, in reality, not quitting, despite several phony websites, news stories and even a YouTube video declaring otherwise.
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A statement attributed to Osteen on the hoax site reads:
As many of you may know, and may have heard in the news recently, many of my sermons have deviated from traditional Christian doctrine. I have been accused of altering the 'message' to fit my own doctrine and dogma. Others have accused me of preaching 'feel good Christianity'. I have also been accused of profiting greatly from my ministry, with my books and television deals.
Many of their criticisms are legitimate.
What they don't know is that deep down in my heart, for a number of years now, I have been questioning the faith, Christianity and whether Jesus Christ is really my, or anyone's, 'savior'.
I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence "God" even exists.
No God worth believing in is going to send you to Hell for not believing in him. Not even the worst sinner and scum of the Earth deserves eternal torment in Hell. In fact, God is more likely to congratulate you upon entering Heaven for doubting, questioning and not believing the religionists and their flimsy facts, demands of blind faith and lack of hard evidence.
The fraudulent quote went on to make Osteen sound like an anti-Obama activist and pro-environment champion, saying, "What we have to focus on now that I've left the faith are the immediate issues at hand that affect us in the real world. The destruction of our environment by multinational corporations, the poisoning of our food and water, the toxic fluoride they have been putting in our water for 50 years, the toxic GMO foods that the Monsanto corporation is responsible for, Obama's many destructive policies and his administration's attempt to dismantle the 2nd Amendment. These issues will be what I will begin to focus on, so long as the media does not completely shut me out."
There are even fake news images from the Drudge Report, CBN, Yahoo News, and one from CNN with the headline, "Pastor of mega church resigns, rejects Christ," with a subhead, "Cites lack of faith, pledges 'new church.'"
Lakewood Church officials have indicated they're aware of the hoax and "false rumor."