Discussion by: spaikI was watching a documentary of an interview of Professor Dawkins with Al Jazeera in Oxford University.
(Here is the link for those interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U0Xn60Zw03A#!)
There was an interesting question in it which was the following:
(with a bit of paraphrasing)
There are dark episodes in human history arising from our instinct to survive. Was it not the ideas of religion that took the human species from the base survival instincts and took them to the paradigm of thinking which was not necessarily in the interests of the instincts they have for survival?
The following is what I thought about the issue:
If religion is a fictional piece of work, then the morality issues involved in religion must have arisen from people prior to religion. In other words, whoever first came up with the moral views included in the first religions must have had the moral views before they had the concept of a religion. Thus, morality must have stemmed naturally within humans and was not spurred by religion. However, one positive influence of religion in those early times could be in the spread and enforcement of those moral views. People could have been more inclined to give up their selfish motivations in place of morality due to the incentives given by religions to be moral. This, I think, may be the one useful element of religion in early morality development, but the actual origin of morality must have stemmed pre-religion. Also, even without religion, I believe that morality would have spread, although possibly at a lower rate, because of various rules and laws that could have been placed separate from religion.
I would be interested to hear what other people think about the question and about my views on the issue.