Chen Tao is a UFO religion that originated in Taiwan. It was founded by Hon-Ming Chen (陳恆明 born 1955), who first associated it with UFOs and later had the group misrepresented as a New Age UFO cult. Chen was a former professor who claimed to be an atheist until he joined a religious cultivation group that dated back for two generations to the original female founder, Teacher Yu-Hsia Chen. But he broke with the group, headed by the third-generation teacher, in 1993 and created, with another fellow-cultivator, Tao-hung Ma, their own groups.
This New Religious Movement was a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and UFOlogy. It emphasized transmigration of souls (with three souls per person) and placed great emphasis on spiritual energy. Adherents also believed in “outside souls,” who basically acted as bad influences, or even as demons, in the human world. Chen believed that Earth went through five tribulations going back to the age of the dinosaurs. Each of these tribulations was survived by beings living in North America who were rescued by God in a flying saucer.
Chen Tao also believed that the world would end on December 25, 1998, and that God would come to Earth in a flying saucer to save the righteous and destroy the wicked. In preparation for this event, Chen Tao members were encouraged to give up their possessions, leave their jobs, and move to Chen Tao’s compound in Garland, Texas.
Chen Tao first came to public attention in 1997, when members of the group began broadcasting messages from their compound in Garland, Texas, claiming that the world would end on December 25, 1998. The group’s broadcasts were picked up by radio stations around the country, and Chen Tao quickly became the subject of media attention.
On December 25, 1998, Chen Tao members gathered at their compound in Garland, Texas, to await the arrival of God in a flying saucer. When God did not arrive, the group’s leader, Hon-Ming Chen, announced that the end of the world had been postponed. Chen Tao members continued to live in their compound in Garland, Texas, until 2001, when the group disbanded.
Chen Tao had a significant impact on the New Religious Movement landscape in the United States. The group’s beliefs and practices were unique, and its members were highly visible due to the group’s media attention. Chen Tao’s message of the impending end of the world also resonated with some people, and the group attracted a large following in the late 1990s.
Chen Tao’s legacy is complex. On the one hand, the group’s beliefs and practices were often seen as bizarre and cult-like. On the other hand, Chen Tao also raised important questions about the nature of religious belief and the role of religion in society.
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