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Atheists Raise Funds For Vandalized Bend Churches

By Alicia Inns
Published On: Jun 26 2012 02:43:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 16 2011 07:37:59 AM CDT
BEND, Ore. -

To most people, there is nothing humorous about crime, or religious beliefs.

But a group with a name many would find amusing is very serious about helping two churches vandalized in its name.

Word of Sunday night's tagging spread to Pastafarian members with the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster and atheists across the country.

One of them decided to do something about it - from halfway across the country.

"You know, when I saw this church get vandalized and someone did it, I guess through atheism or Pastafarianism, I just figured the church, even though they are wrong and even though I disagree with their beliefs, they didn't deserve this," atheist Hemant Mehta said Wednesday. "So I think a lot of readers on my site would agree with this, so I asked them if they would consider chipping in."

Hemant Mehta, who goes by "the friendly atheist," created a church cleanup donation fund online from his home in Chicago.

In less than 24 hours, it's already raised nearly $3,000.

His message: This isn't about giving money to a church, it's about righting a wrong.

"This isn't about what they believe and what we believe. No one is advocating this," Mehta said. "I don't know who did this, and I hope that whoever did it is caught. But in the meantime, this is the least that anyone can do to just help this church."

Reactions in the non-theist community have ranged from applause to gasps of dismay.

But local churches say that believers or non-believers, the support from the community has been overwhelming.

"You see people who maybe have very different belief systems, and yet come together and realize we are all human." said Mike Alexander with the Westside Church. "And even in this local community of Bend, in the last several hours raise up and do the same thing."

Christian Life Center already has completed most of the clean-up, and the writing on the wall is nearly gone.

Pastor John Bluebaugh said though they wont have much need for the money, we need to learn a lesson.

"It's a good lesson for us to understand that not everyone that adheres to a faith or a belief system is extreme like that and would do something like this," Bluebaugh said Wednesday.

Deschutes County Sheriff's deputies said the vandals could be charged with criminal mischief and intimidation. Both misdemeanor crimes that come with possible jail time and fines up to $2,500

If you have information, call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-877-876-TIPS.

You can remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a cash reward.

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