Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has responded to the Internet hoax that claimed he was leaving Christianity by saying that he has not allowed it to trouble him too much.
"You know, I'm really not angry. I don't feel like a victim," Osteen told ABC News Monday night, saying that he found the hoax mildly amusing. "I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down."
On Monday, a "special announcement" on a website pretending to represent Osteen claimed that the popular minister said, "I have one, simple response: I have come to realize my followers have begun to deify me and listen to me, and not God. This, among other reasons, led me down a path of awakening."
The website also features a full statement from Osteen who supposedly describes how and why he is quitting the church:
"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."
Included was a link to other Christian news websites that ran with the story – all an elaborate hoax.
The Lakewood Church leader, whose Texas congregation numbers 45,000 people, added in his typical fashion that it was important to turn the other cheek in situations like this.
"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 enjoy this day," Osteen insisted.
The Christian Post looked into the hoax website, www.joelostenministries.com, and found that it was registered on April 1st, likely making it an April Fool's joke. The physical address provided was a place in Milwaukee, Wis., which also proved nonexistent.
Additionally, the website is registered under the GoDaddy domain. Under Section 3 from Go Daddy Legal Agreements, Policies and Notices, it has the right to shut down any account that presents inaccurate information.
Barry Bowen contributed research to this article.