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Stephen Pattison considers the nature of shame as it is discussed in the diverse discourses of literature, psychology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, history and sociology and concludes that shame is not a single unitary phenomenon, but rather a set of separable but related understandings in different discourses. Situating chronic shame primarily within the metaphorical ecology of defilement, pollution and toxic unwantedness, Pattison goes on to examine the causes and effects of shame, including its use as a means of social control, before discussing means of healing shame and integrating individuals and groups whose lives are blighted by it. He then considers the way in which a particular religious tradition, Christianity, has responded to and used shame as a preface to suggesting ways in which religion might alleviate rather than exacerbate shame. His analysis raises fundamental questions for religious thought, organization and practice in what is increasingly regarded as an age of shame.
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