Just as we thought! Late Wednesday night, Tool frontman and Jesus tease Maynard James Keenan, responding to yet another entreaty to clarify the rumor that he was leaving the band to follow the Lord, said in an e-mail: "Pretend you're reading 'The Onion.' "

On Thursday morning, Keenan 'fessed up to the world on the Tool Web site, and in a final e-mail to MTV News, he said: "I was actually quite surprised people bought it. Especially considering most of the subject matter of my work. 'Judith,' for example. I guess when I said 'f--- your god,' I didn't mean the actual God. Just the god of sheep who lack a sense of humor."

— Kurt Loder

(Here is Wednesday's update.)

You'll recall that on Tuesday, in the course of looking into Internet rumors that Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan had found Jesus and was leaving the band, we e-mailed Keenan and put the question to him directly. His response was: "i did, in fact, find jesus. More news to follow. God bless ya."

After contemplating this communication, with its lowercase "j" for "Jesus," and its oddly breezy "God bless ya," we began to wonder: Was MJK pulling our leg, yanking our chain — in a word, lying to us? We e-mailed him again, and asked flat-out. His response this time: "heh heh."

Jesus.

(And here is our original report from Tuesday, April 5.)

Has Maynard James Keenan, the frontman of both the dark, heavy-metal art band Tool and the somewhat lighter A Perfect Circle, found Jesus and been born again? Well ...

Recent postings on two Tool Web sites — one of them purportedly by Keenan himself — contend that the singer has found religion and has left Tool. Could this really be? On Tuesday afternoon (April 5), MTV News' Kurt Loder e-mailed Keenan for confirmation, and this is what he e-mailed back: "I did, in fact, find Jesus. More news to follow. God bless ya."

Keenan's letter to fan site toolshed.down.net explains that "some recent events have led me to the rediscovery of Jesus" and that "Tool will need to take the back seat." A posting on Tool's Web site alludes to Maynard's newfound Christianity as well, but who wrote the post is unclear. It reads, "I went to the studio to give Maynard a bottle of wine ... [and] not only wasn't Maynard there, but ... I was told Maynard has indeed 'found Jesus' and that, for this reason, he's abandoned the project for the time being, if not entirely."

But given their timing (one dated March 31, the other April 1), both posts were dismissed as April Fools' pranks, leaving fans wondering whether Keenan and the rest of Tool were just having a little fun with everyone.

The band's management could not be reached for comment or confirmation on the matter.

Keenan would be the second rocker in as many months to profess a renewed interest in religion. In late February, Korn's management formally announced that guitarist Brian "Head" Welch was leaving his band to rededicate his life to Christianity (see "Brian 'Head' Welch Talks God To 10,000 In California Church").

Whether Keenan — the man responsible for songs like "Prison Sex" and "Jerk-Off" and who for a time carried business cards with the name "Jesus H. Christ" printed on them — will become the second rocker to turn his back on a high-profile, highly successful band to follow a more spiritual path remains something of a question mark for the time being. But at least one person expressed glee over Keenan's apparent decision: Head.

"This is a beautiful, beautiful outpouring of the Holy Spirit," Welch wrote in an e-mail to MTV News.

Check out Kurt Loder's interview with Maynard James Keenan from last year: "Maynard James Keenan: Not Yet A Legend, Not Yet Dead."

[This story was originally published at 5:32 p.m. ET on 04.05.2005]