A very dedicated prankster has created several websites claiming that filthy rich Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has quit the business of christianity due to a "lack of faith". The message may not really be from Joel, but it's still a good one. On the website, http://www.joelostenministries.com/, the prankster writes:
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.
My only problem is that it describes the bible as a history book. The bible is not a history book, though it is historical without a doubt. It has been used for hundreds of years to justify atrocity after atrocity.
There are clues on the website about who the prankster is. He or she is probably an atheist, though he or she claims that Joel is donating a chunk of his fortune to the Salvation Army, a church organization well known for its homophobic practices. Near the bottom of the page, there are a few very critical things written about the Monsanto Corporation and a pledge to donate to the Organic Consumers Association. I doubt that the prankster is directly involved with the organization, but he or she seems to support them.
The prankster has even set up a fake twitter account, a video on youtube, and a fake CNN story for the hoax. He or she has a lot of people fooled, and a lot of it is probably wishful thinking. Just like there are many christians whose faith depends on the faith of those around them, there are atheists who can't stand that some people believe, and they take things like this as a confirmation of their disbelief. It's natural for a person just leaving a religion to be angry and unsure and take delight in stories like this. It's easy for some people to believe that a man like Joel Osteen would give up his faith, assuming he really has any, and maybe take some other believers with him to the atheist side.
But that's not likely to happen. Joel Osteen has built an empire on pretending that Jesus died for our sins, and he's not about to give it up now whether he's a sincere believer or not. He's a rich guy, and this is his business. This hoax was just an elaborate and ingenious April Fool's Day prank.