Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wikipedia as a means of learning religious concepts

My brother called me to ask what was the right way to express 'suffering' according to Buddhist thought. (We both took the same class on this at different times, and he wanted a refresher to write a paper.) So, I pulled out a book I had on the subject that's dry, yet careful and particular with its explanations. I found the few sentences in there that best answered his questions. Things led to things, and I found myself on the Wikipedia page for Dukkha.

It turns out this page reproduced the exact sentences from the book I had read, plus more around it pertaining to Buddhism's "suffering". All in all, more to the point for my brother's purposes. Is Wikipedia an oasis of efficient knowledge transfer of old religious concepts?

- You would obviously get deeper knowledge out of the book, but not nearly so quickly or efficiently. (Wp might have some awareness of this too, with its sidebar publicizing Wp's "series on Buddhism".)

- Wp will tend to be thorough/complete on a given topic, if possibly over-complete or superfluous.

- This article on Dukkha was less dry than the book (I felt), but clear and direct, and not "biased" in the obvious way religion can be.

- Books and classes all cost money! (Though I suppose churches can be free.)

It's time for us to learn about religion on Wikipedia.

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