The rod was not spared.

A couple in Las Vegas has beaten their seven year-old child to death for not reading the bible.

Police say Palmer later admitted that he beat Roderick with numerous household items, including a belt, a spatula and a wooden paddle, as well as with his hands. Dina Palmer, who initially denied involvement in the beatings, subsequently confessed to participating in the abuse.

Markiece Palmer later told police that he beat Roderick because the boy lied about reading a chapter in the Bible. The next day, the boy was beaten again when he lied about completing his homework.

When police asked Dina Palmer about the bruises on the boy’s body, she allegedly confessed that they were from “whoopins” administered by her and her husband. A warranted search of their residence turned up a broken, bloody broomstick, belts, cords, spatulas and bloody clothes.

If only there had been a passage that said “Don’t beat your children.”  Perhaps it could’ve been put in place of Proverbs 13:24.

Sadly, there are some people in the world whose reserves of either compassion or intellect are so deficient that they cannot deduce that beating their child is immoral.  These are the type of people who can look at the rusty moral tatters of societies thousands of years dead and think that they are superior to a fully developed human conscience.

For those who can’t figure out that beating your children is morally reprehensible on their own, the bible seems to be little help, if any.  The faithful will soon be ironically bellowing that the solution to this type of thing is more faith.  But one thing is unequivocally certain here: these parents believed.  They believed in Jesus more deeply than most.  They felt that reading the bible was of tremendous importance, compared to most Christians who haven’t read the thing.  And their devout faith did not make them better.  That’s how useful the bible is at promoting morality.

When do we get to beat god to death for making his book so boring that nobody wants to read it?  When do we get to beat him to death for forgiving parents who murder their child, so long as they believe Christ died for them, while punishing the virtuous who can’t believe the absurd?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • iknklast

    Every time I read one of thes stories, it makes my blood boil. I can empathize, though I managed to actually live through it (obviously). It also outrages me that people tell me I should forgive and forget. Why? Because I didn’t die?

    I hope this couple is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I don’t believe in corporal punishment, but sometimes you think it would be poetic justice for them to experience what it feels like to be a scared 7-year-old, cringing in terror as his armed and dangerous parents (who also happen to be much larger and stronger) launch a full frontal assault on his person.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    You have to be pretty determined to beat a child to death while it begs for mercy. It takes some time, and requires commitment to injury and suffering.

    Can we get an apologist in the comments to tell us how this wasn’t a troo krischun? Or perhaps that they were misguided by doing what the Bible tells them to do? Hello? Or do Christians only comment when the subject is Charlie Brown, not kids being killed by self-righteous Christian parents? Or perhaps it’s only fun for Christians to get indignant over Muslims who kill over their holy book. Because that’s what happened here – a child died over a holy book, and it wasn’t the Koran.

    • Loqi

      Here, let my try my hand at being an apologist stand-in.
      The verse doesn’t say beat them *to death*. There are lots of other verses that talk about Jesus being merciful, and that somehow negates the brutal stuff. These people didn’t have Jesus in their hearts!
      (Insert nebulous “feel good” verse not even tangentally related to the topic here)

      • Art Vandelay

        I always found this to be problematic for Christians that only care about what Jesus said regarding child abuse…

        Mark 7
        5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

        6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

        “‘These people honor me with their lips,
        but their hearts are far from me.
        7 They worship me in vain;
        their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

        8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

        9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

  • Timid Athiest

    These kinds of stories only reinforce my decision to never physically harm my child as punishment. Discussion and very rarely a warning and even more rarely (I’ve only done it twice in the 12 years she’s been alive) time out are all I’ve ever needed in order to get her to do what she should be doing. Sometimes I’ll change my mind on things if her responses are convincing enough to persuade me that she shouldn’t have to do what I ask of her. Children are people, just smaller. They should be treated as people, even if the parents are teaching them certain values.

    I’ve always been of the belief that physical punishment does nothing but teach a child to hit others when they aren’t getting what they want. It’s a learned behavior, they are learning it from the parents.

    • neatospiderplant

      So much this.

    • ButchKitties

      Hey now, physical punishment can do more than teach a child to hit others. It can also teach a child to so fear her parents that she will put herself in terrible situations to avoid having to admit mere mistakes, let alone actual wrongdoings, to them.

  • smrnda

    Something I’ve noticed (you can read William Lane Craig’s view of genocide in the OT) is that Christians often don’t seem to have any inherent disgust for brutality. Being disgusted by brutality is a part of having compassion and a decent moral compass. Instead, they’ve got authoritarianism (where hitting the little people isn’t a crime, but it’s a crime when they hit back) and the whole belief that what matters isn’t how you treat other people, but how deeply you believe in god.

    Also, the whole ‘everybody is a sinner and nobody is virtuous’ – it sounds like the equivalent of a kid who never does any work whose just failed another test arguing that ‘nobody’s perfect’ and so he should get a passing grade, along with everybody who only missed one question rather than 100. It’s just a way to escape accountability, and now you’ve got these parents who probably think that as long as they’re real sorry they should escape punishment. I just worry that too many people might by that nonsense and will cut them slack in sentencing.

  • baal

    My son is 11. (sample size of 1 I know but the literature also bears out our approach)
    One of my larger concerns is that he is too nice and doesn’t really understand that mean people exist. His teachers consistently remark that he’s lovely to have in the classroom for his calming influence*. My wife and I have never physically punished him and rarely have yelled at him. We work to express our expectations in clear full sentences and use extremely mild reprimands and rewards when we like or don’t like his behavior. We don’t have many rules but use the same expressed principles over and over again. I (my wife less so) also provides feedback on how to do better (not right and wrong, better) – you did this thing this way, what were (here are) other options on doing that.

    This training model works and creates minimal harm. The beat them silly since the bible says so model has not fared well in the literature and leads to the occasional entirely avoidable and tragic deaths noted in the OP.

    I should also mention one of my ex-neighbors. She was in crappy circumstances generally (single parenting, substance abuse, low intelligence, irrelevant or criminal family) but we still called the cops on her with some regularity. Due to earlier police calls, she stopped doing beatings on her daugher (good!). One night, however, she was yelling at her daughter for literally hours on the same 2-3 statements ad naseum and in the worst tones possible. We called the cops again. The next day she was back again, stood on her porch and berated us (the neighborhood really) on how a ‘hollar’n’ (hollering) was her god given right and the only way to stop her whore of a daughter (what, then about 9) from masturbating (whole another can of worms there). I can’t imagine what this style of parenting does to a child. Clearly this woman’s only exposure to being a good parent was the ‘don’t spare the rod’ model. It sucks.

    The use the rod approach teaches subservience and low performance.
    My sister was in the peace core and taught English to Namibians (~ 8 years ago). The local teachers uses switches to punish low performers – be it in math class or races in PE. They stated that the pain was incentive to do better. People avoid pain right? They were pretty willful in also missing the point that kids don’t want to see other kids get hurt. By running the fastest or scoring the highest on the test, they knew someone else would get switched. They then decided to all get bad scores or to keep pace and have everyone cross the finish at the same time. This rarely meant punishment for not performing (oddly enough they were sticklers on the rule, only the last or lowest was punished). My sister eventually started destroying the switches (a high risk act) and confronting the local teachers but that is another story.

    *bullying is starting to be a problem, some folks mistake nice for weak.

    • Hot Mess

      I wish there were more parents like you, My brother and his wife do a similar thing and his three boys are the most kind well behaved children I have ever seen. On the bullying note, Teachers often put the good kids with the bad ones to “be a good influence”, it usually results in the good kids getting picked on.

      • Andrew Kohler

        Ditto re: baal being awesome and parents who punish their children for masturbating in private* being abusive (re: smrnda, infra), even if they do it with the best intentions, unlike the nutjob described above. Bad parents make me very x-(

        Also, re: baal’s sister rebelling against switches: dude, that is AWESOME!!! It’s nice to hear that the children didn’t like seeing their classmates get punished, btw; sometimes kids can be rather sadistic (they’re sort of like adults in that regard!)

        * Even if a child does masturbate around other people, I wouldn’t go straight to punishment, but rather to teaching the child about basic propriety and, in contemporary parlance, boundaries. If they child is, um, willfully and defiantly masturbating in public…well, I’d call a good shrink about how to deal with exhibitionism. I have never witnessed such a thing, however, nor even heard of it for a child–it seems far more likely for public masturbation to be a result of not understanding social behavior at that age.

    • smrnda

      You seem to be a great parent; I’ve worked with children but don’t have any myself.

      Also, if you ask me, punishing your child for masturbating (unless they are doing it out in public) is child abuse. Your neighbor sounds like a real, genuine idiot, who probably wouldn’t be able to figure out why she’s a bad parent if she was exposed to the best information on infant and child psychology possible. The evidence that I’ve seen in person is that kids with parents like that become extremely anxious and inhibited (since they’re used to adults overreacting) though a positive is if they realize that their family is weird, abnormal and unreasonable get a better sense of self. I’ve known people from similar families who tell me that having contact with other, better, more sensible families kept them from believing what their parents said about them.

  • veganatheist01

    “Sadly, there are some people in the world whose reserves of either compassion or intellect are so deficient that they cannot deduce that beating their child is immoral.”

    No, see, it’s really not. You as an atheist cannot understand this, but this child’s death was GOD’S PLAN, and God’s plans are always the best for us all. The boy’s suffering was surely for his own good. See, maybe the boy was a Christian now, and died a Christian and went to heaven instead of growing up to become an atheist and then going to hell. An eternity of bliss surely outweighs any earthly suffering, even you have to admit that!

    And so religion goes on, unchecked by reality.

  • ButchKitties

    I bet a search of the house would turn up a Michael Pearl book or two.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    This 7 year old child was beaten to death with “small” implements, like wooden spoons, belts, cords and a broom stick. Nothing big enough to cause a blow that would rapidly lead to internal damages or unconsciousness and a quick death. It’s like something out of a spy drama, where the hero is beaten enough to make him talk but not enough to kill him rapidly.
    Can you even imagine the HOURS of pain and torture that this child endured before he died? How could two adults do that to a child? It is brutal sadism justified by religion.