Flying-saucer folk left godless

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The flying-saucer spiritualists turned on and tuned in, but God did not show up. A 150-member Taiwanese sect which recently moved to the Dallas suburb of Garland had predicted God would appear on television immediately after midnight to announce that he would descend to Earth next week.

But there was no sign of the heavenly broadcast that the sect's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, had predicted would be visible on Channel 18 on any television set in the US. Mr Chen emerged from his home to tell reporters he had been wrong and they could now discount his prediction that God would show up at 10am on 31 March. "Since God's appearance on television has not been realised, you can take what we have preached as nonsense," Mr Chen said through an interpreter. "I would rather you don't believe what I say any more." But he continued to communicate with God and still believed God would descend to Earth to save people from a nuclear holocaust in next year by taking them to another planet in flying saucers.

Mr Chen, 42, a former university professor known to his followers as Teacher Chen, suggested God decided not to make the broadcast on Wednesday in order to test his loyalty further. "God has communicated to me that if I want to take the responsibility of preaching his gospel, I have to have the courage to face the scoffing and laughter of people."

Believing Mr Chen's predictions that God would appear in human form at Mr Chen's home at 3513 Ridgedale Drive in Garland, the sect members moved en masse to this quiet, middle-class suburb late last year and bought up more than two dozen homes. There had been fears Mr Chen and his followers might commit suicide if God did not show up but he said suicide was not an option for members.

- Reuters, Garland