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March 28th, 2011
02:11 PM ET

Gingrich fears 'atheist country ... dominated by radical Islamists'

Newt Gingrich at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Hours after declaring Sunday that he expects to be running for president within a month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he's worried the United States could be “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” in the foreseeable future, according to Politico.

Gingrich was addressing Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, led by the Rev. John Hagee, an influential leader among American evangelicals. Hagee's endorsement of then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 was plagued by controversy.

McCain ultimately rejected the endorsement over remarks Hagee had made about the Holocaust, in which he appeared to say that Adolf Hitler had been fulfilling God's will by hastening the desire of Jews to return to Israel, in accordance with biblical prophecy.

"God says in Jeremiah 16: 'Behold, I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave to their fathers. ... Behold, I will send for many fishers, and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them.' That would be the Jews,” Hagee had said in an earlier sermon.

“Then God sent a hunter,” his sermon continued. “A hunter is someone who comes with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter."

McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement of his campaign after learning about the comments in May 2008. "Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said at the time.

Hagee then withdrew his endorsement of the Arizona senator, which he had offered three months earlier.

One irony of McCain rejecting Hagee’s endorsement over his Holocaust remarks is that the Texas evangelist leads the Christian Zionist movement. Hagee is founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, which features Elie Wiesel and other Holocaust survivors at its events.

Here’s what Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church on Sunday evening, according to Politico:

"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

The former House Speaker held up his own faith (he converted to Catholicism two years ago) as proof of his undying patriotism. He lashed out at the college professors and mainstream media he says are seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values. And he targeted the judges who he charges are effectively re-writing the Constitution.

But Gingrich was mum on his own controversial past, one of martial indiscretions and divorces that have made courting religious conservatives a tall task as he nears a likely presidential run.

Gingrich’s church appearance comes amid a broader campaign to court religious conservatives.

On Monday, Hagee released a statement praising Gingrich's appearance at Cornerstone. “It was such a great honor to welcome Mr. Gingrich to our church, and hear him describe the centrality of faith in our nation,” he said.

The statement also included praise for Hagee and his wife, Diana, from Gingrich.

“It was truly an honor to be with John and Diana at Cornerstone," Gingrich said. "Their dedication to serve is inspirational.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Texas

soundoff (2,228 Responses)
  1. Russ139

    Poor ol' Newt. He has to go there and kiss some evangelical butt. I'm no fan of Gingrich, but he is smart. Smart enough to know that what he said at that mega-church is mega-nonsense. And Newt, religious? Gimme a break!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  2. Velma

    Not only does he not know the difference between atheists and Islamists, but he thinks his faith is proof of patriotism??? What a bonehead! I suppose his past "sins" (or present ones, either) should not count against him because he now can confess them regularly and be forgiven over and over again. Too bad for him that he can't be forgiven by American people for thinking his stupidity is what this country needs in the White House.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  3. Bhushta

    I don't think an awful lot of people are interested in what Newt has to say. The one thing about being in the public eye too long is that people get to see what you're really made of, and he is not made of presidential material. In fact I can't think of too much he is made for other than retirement. Has the GOP completely lost it, or have they just given up on 2012. So far their list of potential candidates is pathetic.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  4. Maggie

    My name is Maggie and I am proud to be an atheist!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  5. independent

    Is there such a thing as an atheist Muslim? Is that the same thing as an atheist Catholic? How about all those atheist Protestants?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Phil

    Bugs Bunny's quote sums up Newt "Whatta maroon! Whatta ignoranimus"!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  7. jdx

    bradley manning was both gay and an atheist (but let's not notice)...sssshh

    March 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  8. bp

    How about a blog about CNN's "comment awaiting moderation" inhibit free speech?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  9. Steve

    Wait a minute. Did Sarah Palin bite the Newt and infect him with her insanity? Talk about stupidity. If the country becomes atheist doesn't that mean NO RELIGION? I'm sure Islam is classified as a religion. Does this guy even hear his own thoughts? What a numbskull!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  10. Raider

    One can only hope that the Athiest part of his statement comes true!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  11. Havefaith

    All of your statements just confirm what he says. Those without faith and those who follow Islam, are both on the rise and will dominate this country in the coming years. Other religions are on the decline. There is nothing contradictory about what he's saying. The "free-thinking" liberals with their moral relativism will let radical Muslims take over this country, and before you know it, the laws will change to support Islamic law and, like that, our country will be gone. And those who don't practice Islam will not be tolerated. I have slightly more respect for Muslims, who believe in something, as opposed to atheists, who believe in nothing but their own egos and only what their senses tell them. It's all about what's good for the individual. It's an animal-like mentality disguised as high-minded thinking. It's all about instant and immediate gratification. Soulless actions. Soulless lives. Just keep typing your know-it-all b.s. and fulfill Gingrich's vision for our future.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • JW

      Ahh, right, so let's all bow down before your version of God (even though it isn't the same as many of the "founding father's" version, which was a deistic God of nature), follow your interpretation of it, and the whole world will be a better place, sitting around the campfire singing happy songs. Wake up man, you are living in someone else's nightmare, pinch yourself, evaluate what you think you know, and come out of the cave before you guys lead this world into your own version of armageddon!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Satan

      You are a moron and obviously do not understand that it is the Christians and Muslims that have false faith and the big egos. If I were christian or muslim I would too, because God loves me and Jesus/Muhammed are on my side. I can tell you have never researched any religious things or opened your mind. Maybe I should have just stayed a brainwashed catholic, too.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Bhushta

      aside from the total disregard for a logical sequence of ideas, great post. The strange thing here is that the two groups that are most similar are evangelical, right wing christians and jihadist muslims. Cut from the same cloth. Both think that only their version of God is correct, and that anyone not believing their twisted interpretation of scripture will burn forever. Andplease don't say that at least the christians don't kill people, because that is not even close to true.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • godisdead

      Live in fear much? Religion is nothing but mythology and atheists would prefer it stay out of politics. If we can keep christianity out of politics we can certainly keep islam out. One step at a time. If you Toad would stop re-writing history. This is not a christian country. We didn't start emblazoning 'god' on everything until the Communist scare. Politicians like to evoke fear in the public, and an easy ally is 'god'.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Concerned4Fla

      Sorry, I judge "religious people" by their actions. My whole life I've watched them cause suffering. I'm tired of it–and I'm delighted that more and more people are calling the religious right out on their BS ideas, policies and actions. Live your life as you see fit religious folks, but stay the he11 out of mine.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  12. Mark

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha HaHa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha !!! Gingrich is an pandering, bottom-feeding, idiot !!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  13. RxCello

    Gingrich is an utter moron. How can a "secular, atheist country" be dominated by Islamists? Does the guy have any brain tissue whatsoever? Anyway, the U.S. is already a secular country, and is I have anything to say about it, it will remain so. And oh, by the way, I'm an atheist too. Ain't nothin' wrong with us.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  14. Thankgodi'manatheist

    Let me get this straight, America will be, 1) atheist, and 2) Islamist. I think the two are mutually exclusive, Toad. we can't have an atheist nation that is dominated by a religion. And if it's Islamists you fear taking over, then we atheists should be your best friends. I for one will be on the front-line fighting against religious domination of any type, Islamist or Christian or Jewish or Flying Spaghetti Monster, Hindu, Wiccan..........

    March 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • JW

      Hey, come on now, don't expect politics to be rational, logically derived, or anything. Cut him some slack, he's playing on the good ol' ignorance and fear factor. And let's face it, Americans are utterly susceptible to both, and proud of it.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Concerned4Fla

      Followers of the flying spaghetti monster never hurt anyone. Look it up–we are a peaceful people.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  15. Pat

    Go Newt Go! I'll be voting for him. Nobody else that is going to run for the GOP has an understanding of the issues and is the leader that Newt is. Palin and Huckabee are unelectable. Trump is a bully. Romney...maybe, but I think he would be out of his league.......kind of like Obama is now.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • RxCello

      Okay, crawl back into your cave now.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Banjo

      What year did your parents leave the third Reich? Did they burn their uniforms and hide in the woods before they taught you absolutely nothing?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Todd

      Newt, the man who abandoned his wife when she was dying of cancer. Newt, the man who had to pay a $300k fine while in the House for doing an illicit book deal. Newt, the man who was forced to resign back in the 90s.

      He is the man you think should be president?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Phil

      Wow you was serious! I was waiting for the punch line, but it never came.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Pat

      Phil.....Yes, I'm serious. The Third Reich comment from Banjo is funny. Phil....if people looked at personal issues when deciding then nobody would get a vote. They all have baggage. Clinton's baggage was overlooked....twice!!!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  16. toshmaster1

    What a joke! Gingrich the narcissist who cheated on and abandoned his wife when she was dying of cancer, appearing here with a racist, bigoted church. One more reason to be atheist.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  17. JW

    Wow, sounding like a true neo-conservative. Just need to develop that phanton enemy concept a little better, scare the people back to their morality, and BINGO, we have a winner. Or fool, not realizing the greater destruction he brings on us?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  18. Rob in KS

    You gather a group of middle-age, middle-class, middle-income Christian voters who remember with longing a seemingly easier time and you talk to them about family and American values...and character (really Newt?). You wave a bible in the air, scream about patriotism, you tell them it's the godless liberals, the Jews, the Muslims, and President Obama that are to blame for their lot in life. History, facts, and a reasonable conception of reality are simply to be dismissed as drivel. Now that's how you get the Republican nomination for President...

    March 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  19. SSampson

    All of the founding fathers were religious?? – Interesting... I guess Newt read different textbooks than I did...

    Deists maybe (beleiving in the likelyhod of a creator).... But there is plenty of evidence that the Founding Fathers actively wanted to completely seperate church and state...

    I wish people would stop rewritng history to fit specific needs

    March 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • brian

      i couldn't agree with you more

      March 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Nick

      My favorite thing is right at the beggining of the article, “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” That is a giant oxymoron. Yes our nation is going to become atheist (hopefully, not likely at all) and then let our selves get run by one percent of a group that makes up barely one percent of the population. Think Newt! Just stop think about what you are going to say then realize that it is stupid and shut your mouth. Ofcourse you are pandering to a voting block that can be convince of nearly anything unless it consists of rational thought.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  20. Paul

    Good god, do these people even listen to themselves?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.