Atheists believe that everything is an accident
Religious people like to say that atheists believe everything is an "accident". Typically, when the topics of abiogenesis or the Big Bang arise, the theist offers a false dichotomy between "purposeful design" and "purposeless accident".
- "We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. "
"[Materialists] think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always existed, nobody knows why; and that the matter behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think."
Not all atheists accept this view and some reject the notion of randomness altogether. Many atheists consider the universe to be deterministic but without any absolute meaning. An occurrence can only be called an "accident" in contexts that order and purpose were otherwise the norm, so it is meaningless to apply the term "accident" to the universe unless we a priori expected order and design.
"Once you know that there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident; for it is only beside a world of purposes that the word “accident” has meaning."
Meaning of "Accident"
Two different lines of definition exist for the word "accident", and the theist might be making either claim.
- They may mean "accident" as an event that was not intended. For example, someone driving a car does not intend to collide into another car. So when it does, it's labelled an "accident".
- They may be addressing the issue of improbable events. For example, it's incredibly unlikely that a tornado would randomly blow through a junkyard, and the parts happen to fall together and assemble into a 747.
Accident as Unintended Events
An accident would require a mind in the first place, which had intent. So by saying that atheists believe everything is an accident is implying that atheists believe in a designer, who strayed from its intent, which is clearly not the position of an atheist, who, by definition, does not believe in the existence of any deities that successfully carried on their intent, nor made an accident.
If there are no gods, then our existence is neither accidental or intentional. It just is. We are the ones who are speculating on whether it's an accident or intentional, which is irrelevant because from what we can tell, our existence is not the result of a sentient mind.
Accident as Improbable Events
Using the word "accident" implies that the phenomenon in question otherwise shouldn't happen. Thus, if the atheist believes it was an accident, then the atheist is foolishly believing that an event that shouldn't have happened, in fact did. If that's the case, the atheist could be accused of having faith, and thus, is a hypocrite.
The Third Option
Those who bring up this dichotomy are omitting a third option - "expected outcome". While an "accident" would be by definition an incredibly improbable event, an "expected outcome" would be by definition a highly probable event. That is, given a set of initial conditions, a particular outcome is to be reasonably and logically expected. Some examples would be:
- If there's a lot of moisture in the air, and it's below freezing, it's to be expected that it would snow, and it's not an accident.
- If there's open soil in an otherwise grassy field during the summer, it's to be expected that grass will start to grow in it, and it's not an accident.
After the Big Bang, a series of stages of the development of the universe continue until the present day. None of these stages are "accidents", but are all "expected outcomes":
- Right after the Big Bang, we had a lot of elementary particles, such as quarks, floating around, and it's to be expected that they'd cool until they form sub-atomic particles, such as protons, electrons and neutrons.
- After the hot protons, electrons and neutrons continue to cool, it is to be expected that they'd combine into hydrogen.
- After some time of hydrogen and helium floating around the universe, it is to be expected that they'd fall into gravity wells, compress and ignite into stars.
- As the nuclear fusion of the stars continues, it is to be expected that the process would build heavier atoms, such as nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, which alongside hydrogen, form the set of organic elements that are the building blocks to organic compounds.
- As the star uses up its nuclear fuel, it is to be expected that the star will either nova or supernova, spreading the heavier elements around as stellar dust.
- After some time of dust floating around, it is to be expected that it would fall into gravity wells, compress, and form planets and planetoids.
Each step is logical and entirely reasonable to accept as true, especially if the claim is supported by evidence.