(Photo: The Christian Post via CNN)
The anonymous creator of the Joel Osteen Internet hoax that claimed the Lakewood Church leader had lost his faith revealed that his intentions were not to attack the pastor but to "send him a message."
"I would like to state unequivocally my intent was not to defame Mr. Osteen," the anonymous person behind the fake website told NPR.com in an email. "He seems like an infectiously nice and genial character."
On Monday, a website claiming to represent Osteen's ministry produced a fake statement from the pastor, reading: "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."
The website linked to a number of other news sites that seemed to have run with the story that Osteen decided to leave Christianity. But it was all an elaborate hoax, which the creator says took him $12 and a few hours to put together.
The effort managed to gain mainstream media attention, however, and Osteen himself responded, saying that he wasn't really angry and that he doesn't allow things like this to bring him down.
"You know, I'm really not angry. I don't feel like a victim," Osteen told ABC News Monday night. "I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down."
Many had wondered what exactly the purpose of the hoax website was, besides being a late April Fool's joke. The anonymous person behind the story said that he wanted the Texas pastor to "see the light" and to "do away with the soft 'positivity' and cliché-peppered Sunday messages and use his high visibility to address more serious social issues."
He added that he didn't make any money from the project, but wanted to "stage, for a moment, a plausible scenario of his hypothetical resignation" and to "test viral media markets."
The website creator revealed that he has received many messages both from Christians and non-Christians alike. Some were "revealing and deeply sincere," and others were mean-spirited.
"About 60 percent of literally thousands of comments and emails have been positive, affirming messages from Christians praying for me," he explained, adding that the remaining emails were "very angry, upset Christians" and "atheists and freethinkers and 'back slid' Christians."
The man said he is aware of the possibility that he may face legal issues over the elaborate hoax, but said that he has "excellent legal counsel ready for battle." Osteen has not yet revealed if he will take legal action or not.