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Joel Osteen "I am no longer a Christian" hoaxer lives in Minneapolis

Earlier this week, Justin Tribble (right) tried to fool the internet into believing Joel Osteen (left) had abandoned his Christian faith.
Earlier this week, Justin Tribble (right) tried to fool the internet into believing Joel Osteen (left) had abandoned his Christian faith.

Earlier this week, Texas megachurch pastror Joel Osteen was the target of an elaborate internet hoax.

SEE ALSO: BirthOrNot.com: Anatomy of an Internet Hoax

Using the web address joelostenministies.com (note the small typo -- the site has since been taken down) somebody pretending to be Osteen published a "special announcement" in which Osteen seemed to announce he was abandoning his Christian faith.

"I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times," the announcement said. "There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence 'God' even exists."

The (fake) website also featured this video seemingly showing mainstream national media coverage of Osteen's shocking announcement:

The hoaxer also went to the trouble of creating a fake Twitter account to spread the word that Osteen was apparently no longer a Christian.

Of course, it was a bunch of BS. Later in the day Monday, a tweet on Osteen's verified Twitter account said, "Pastor Joel is not leaving the church." Osteen himself later said he found the whole thing "comical" and told ABC News "I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down."

Today, the man responsible for the hoax was identified as 31-year-old Minneapolis freelance writer Justin Tribble. In an interview with ABC, Tribble said he's actually a "big fan" of Osteen, though he's found his sermons of late to be "too shallow."

More from ABC News:

"I didn't want to hurt the guy, didn't want to defame him," Tribble said. "I'm actually a big fan of Joel Osteen. I like him. I listen to him. I enjoy his sermons."

Tribble says his effort, which Osteen told ABC News Monday he found mildly amusing, was not a hoax, as it was widely reported, but a "media campaign."

"[It was] a way to get through and have a dialogue with someone who is essentially inaccessible," he said.

Tribble said he hopes Osteen sees his "media campaign" as part of "God's plan."

"I think it would be nice to have a conversation with him," Tribble told ABC. "Honestly, I wouldn't mind if he prays over me."


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