Atheists reject the idea of a Fall of man. But the Fall is an important element of theistic accounts of why God would allow suffering. If man were extremely good, we might justly be surprised that there is so much suffering in our world. But if man is actually steeped in sin, should we find it shocking that God allows us to suffer?
There are, I think, four matters which, when combined, provide a reasonable case for the Fall of man. Taken individually, they might not be very persuasive. But taken together, they seem to indicated that we are indeed fallen creatures. (The last is the real point of this post.)
First, there is the matter of revelation. The Apostle Paul, for instance, performed miracles and saw visions of Jesus. And Paul declared that “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Paul admitted that even he was affected by this fall, as evidenced by his inability to do what he knew was right (Romans -25).
Second, man is notoriously sinful. In making an Argument from Evil, atheists frequently appeal to moral evil, which God (according to the atheist) should prevent, i.e. rape, murder, torture, child abuse, and genocide. But the examples offered by atheists also show how bad and selfish man is. Indeed, even people who dedicate their lives to doing what is right always find out that something is constantly pulling them in another direction. This is consistent with the Fall.
Third, we can reason indirectly to the Fall via evidence for God’s existence. Atheists argue that pointless suffering is incompatible with the existence of God. Since there is pointless suffering, reasons the atheist, God must not exist. However, the theist can turn this reasoning around by arguing that evidence for the existence of God is evidence against pointless suffering. Hence, any evidence the theist can muster in favor of God’s existence is simultaneously evidence that God has reasons for allowing suffering. One of these reasons, which is consistent with revelation and with what we know about man’s nature, could be that man has fallen into a state of sin.
Finally (and least obviously), we occasionally see glimpses of man’s greatness—things that tell us that man was meant to be something much greater than what he actually is. There seems to be no survival advantage in Mozart’s amazing abilities, or in our love for Mozart’s music. There is little in evolutionary theory that would lead us to expect such things. Similarly, the painting and poetic ability of the girl in this short video baffles the mind, and tells us something about our original state.