Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The backfiring demons of Romania

Here at Worldwide Wacko Watch we're keeping a close eye on a story out of Romania.  It's got all of the necessary elements -- some religious guys who are a little loony, a true believer who is even loonier, and a supernatural entity with an unfortunate problem.  [Source]

The whole thing began when Madalin Ciculescu, a 34-year-old lawyer from the town of Pitesti in Romania, enlisted the help of four priests in ridding his business of demons.  According to Ciculescu, the problem wasn't just the presence of the evil spirits, but that they had a rather... um... malodorous gastrointestinal condition, the results of which were making it impossible to do business.

"When I am at home," Ciculescu told reporters, "they switch the TV on and off all the time, they make foul smells that give me headaches and basically roam unhindered around my house and my business."

So, anyway, the priests dutifully showed up to show the farting demons the door, and performed the ritual exorcism to remove them.  Unfortunately for Ciculescu, though, the whole "vade retro satana" routine didn't make any difference, and the disturbances continued.

And Ciculescu sued the church for "religious malpractice."

"If they (the priests) represent the way of God, then God's ways are crooked.  They did not remove the demons that made these bad smells as they promised to do, and I still see all sorts of demons in the form of animals, usually crows but also other such things, that are making my life miserable."

He included the bishop of the diocese, Constantin Argatu, in the suit, alleging that since the bishop was supposed to be overseeing what the priests were doing, he was guilty of malfeasance as well for not instructing them properly.

Now, you can see how to an atheist, this is all kinds of funny.  A guy plagued by nonexistent evil spirits call priests who are supposed to get a nonexistent god to expel them, and then is surprised when nothing happens.  The flatulence adds a whole extra middle-school-level humor to the whole thing, but I'm not so sophisticated that I can't laugh at a good fart joke.

Ciculescu wasn't laughing, though, and at his court date brought his mother as a witness.  I'm not sure that she helped his credibility, though.  On the witness stand she agreed that her son was plagued by flatulent demons (so far, so good).  But then she added that she sees a "black shadow" following her around, said that the evil spirits liked to hang out in the fridge, and mentioned that her hair dryer was "possessed."

Okay, mom, thanks for helping... you can get off the witness stand, now.

The outcome of the case is interesting.  The courts found in favor of the church, which is unsurprising from the standpoint of "who is richer and more powerful?", but which casts a rather harsh light on the church's claims.  Do evil spirits exist?  The church is the one who is claiming that they do.  Can priests perform an exorcism, or is the whole thing a pointless ritual?  I thought the whole Christian idea was that god is more powerful than the devil, and that you can accomplish anything in god's name.  So, do you people really believe in what you're preaching, or not?

The double standard is curious, and it doesn't just apply here.  Consider all of the biblical stories of god telling so-and-so to smite various people.  The Old Testament in particular is full of references to "holy men of the lord" killing the unworthy, in several places even the children (I'm remembering especially the lovely line from Psalm 137, "Happy the man who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rock").  And they got nothing but approval for these actions.  Today, if a person kills somebody, and then tells the authorities they did it because "god told them to," they're referred for psychiatric evaluation.  No Christian I've ever heard has spoken up and said, "Wait, god told him to do that!  That makes it okay!"  What, doesn't god like his followers to kill the unworthy any more?  Why was that kind of thing edifying (and justifiable) 3,000 years ago, and now it means you're crazy?

Or does it just mean that deep down, you know that god isn't really talking to anyone?

Anyway, Ciculescu lost his suit, and he and his mom have to return to dealing with farting demons in the house.  You have to feel at least a little sorry for them; they obviously believe that their house is possessed (not to mention the fridge and hair dryer).  Also, being around someone with GI problems is no picnic.  I have a dog, Grendel, who gets periodic gas attacks that can clear a packed room in five seconds flat, and that's bad enough.  I can only imagine how much worse a demon would be.

You know, sulfur and brimstone and all.


  1. To play the Devil's Advocate (har har), the church could have claimed that it was not the house that was possessed, but rather, the individual... You can't exorcise demons from an unrepentant individual.

    This argument that you have posed is probably the best talking point I have ever come across.

    Why can't people claim that God told them it was okay, or even commanded them to do it?

    "Unwavering faith" isn't so unwavering, when applied to actual, practical, situations. When it's a theological debate over coffee, people's faith is rock-solid. Put them in a detective's shoes and give them a crime to solve and their faith becomes... malleable.

  2. Has anyone noticed... YES US SKEPTICS.... that this story came from the Daily Mail? No matter which story you read... they ALL quote the Daily Mail as the source. If you are a true Skeptic, you are familiar with this rag. Stay Skeptical.... don't fall for Poe.