What do you believe?

Ezekiel Emanuel is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Emanuel is a well-known authority on the ethics of clinical research, end of life care issues, euthanasia and the ethics of managed care.

He has published in the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancent, JAMA, and many other medical journals. His book The Ends of Human Life: Medical Ethics in a Liberal Polity received an honorable mention for the Rosenhaupt Memorial Book Award by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Dr. Emanuel was educated at Amherst College, Oxford University and Harvard University, from which he holds both an MD and PhD in political philosophy. He also served on the ethics section of President Clinton's Health Care Task Force, on the National Bioethics Advisory Committee, and on the bioethics panel of the Pan American Health Organization

  • Transcript


Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?


Ezekiel Emanuel: Mostly to go around trying to do good things in the world. To try to help people, and to try to do what I can to make sure that the world’s better for my having passed through and consumed all the resources that I have.


Question: Do religion and faith inform your worldview?


Ezekiel Emanuel: I’m a practicing atheist, by which I mean I do not believe in God. I don’t understand exactly what that would mean.

On the other hand, I do go to synagogue every week, very religiously, and take that very seriously. And actually, the synagogues that I have gone to over my lifetime have been wonderful, almost all because they have no rabbi. They’re all run by people who are in them. And I have been fortunate enough to go with people who are incredibly smart.

The place I go to now is; none of them are famous. It’s called an ______ synagogue. They would probably be horrified if any one of them were famous. They are brilliant people. They read the Bible brilliantly. They have brilliant insights into what the Bible means, and it’s very inspiring to do. They’ve actually published a book of various insights that they’ve had called “Leaves from the Garden”, and it’s just an amazing thing.

On the other hand, Judaism is a religion of practice, not a religion of belief. And so even if you’ve lost faith, you’re told you’ve got to keep up with the practices. So I guess I fall into that category. No faith, but lots of religion.


Recorded: July 5, 2007