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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. Jeff S

    Just to clarify for everyone: the brand of Christianity represented by people like this is considered anti-Christian by real Christians. Newt Gingrich is far more Luciferian than he is Christian. Also, he doesn't realize that "atheist" means someone who does not believe in any God, not just his perverted version of the Christian God.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Johnny Monsarrat

      To clarify, move from "we choose to interpret God's will in the Bible in a more liberal way, and continue to follow God's will" which is how liberal Christians defend their believe in gay rights or stem cell research to "we have chosen to decide for ourselves in the areas that the Bible does not seem to touch upon, we are following our own will this time".

      March 29, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  2. Judy W

    Newt is just a self-serving adulterous sob. If he is going to claim to be a Christian, he should remember "Thou shalt not commit adultery" is the 7th commandment.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  3. NonMuslimNonAtheistSoIMustBeImportant!

    Alright, the open season for comics begins! Let's see what else rolls out of the Republican Bank(ruptcy)!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  4. Erin

    Why is it that to be a republican candidate lately, you have to also be a crazy fundamentalist christian who spouts nonsense every time you open your mouth? I'm pretty sure that any country that is atheist is not going to be dominated by radical Islamists. Doesn't somebody check their speeches ahead of time to make sure they're not saying anything completely idiotic?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Americans repudiating religion - all religion - would be one of the best things that could possibly happen to this country.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  6. rene

    freaking idiot....he just lost all my respect, someone slap this man please

    March 29, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  7. Phil

    The comment that this could become an athiest nation dominated by Islamists, could be one of the dumbest things ever to come out of a politicians mouth. Newt is entering George Bush territory for stupidity! How could you have an athiest nation(people who don't believe in god), dominated by islamists(people who are fanatical about god).

    March 29, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  8. trevor

    I can't believe how stupid Mr. Gingrich is. That goes for the radical right as a whole. Question to those of you who are very religious: What kind of person would you be without religion? Would you still be a good person, or would you fall into a life of crime and immorality without the crutch of religion to lean on?

    Us moderates need a legitimate third party to keep the others in check.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  9. Grumps 09

    Better a nation of civilized athesists than a nation of Newt style "Christians"

    March 29, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  10. Raj

    Wow !..... how far- right they need to go to appease their flock?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  11. Sheldon

    How could an atheist country be run by Islamists, when Islamists aren't atheists?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  12. Califas

    Newt should become an atheist. He's been married several times. Perhaps he believes the sacred covenant of marriage in the eyes of God does not apply to him despite touting his embrace of Christian values. The combination of failed marriages and his existence in an alternate, virtual world make him a "Newt-Tron Bomb."

    March 29, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  13. Brad

    Every extreme ideology needs an imaginary bad guy. Hitler had the jews. Bush had the gays. Newt has picked the Muslims to energize his radical base. So sad . . .

    March 29, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  14. Huh?

    Since when were atheists and Islamists the same thing? Atheists don't believe in any kind of God... Islamists believe in God and Heaven so much they're willing to blow themselves up for it...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • Anonymous

      Gingrich is an idiot.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  15. TripleA

    Gingrich pushing belief in God? Then being an atheist must be the moral thing to choose.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  16. Jay

    let me get this straight, he fears an atheist country dominated by radical islamists – how many kinds of fail are in there?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  17. dirtyharry1971

    How about Palin as his running mate? lol

    March 29, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  18. Aezel

    Man atheist Muslims, they are almost as bad as atheist Christians. Ugh, just another moron in the Republican stupidity mill.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  19. Shalisa

    Wow, what an idiot.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • WEAK SAUCE

      What a TOTAL idiot!!!

      "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists"

      complete... absolute... no doubt about it... I!D!I!O!T!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  20. SSampson

    Whether you like Obama or not.... you gotta admit that the GOP presidential race (and those we expect, but have not announced) is full of morons.... The political selection in this country in general is full of self-serving lobbist-loving useless ticks

    Where are all the good people gone !!! – right or left – who cares – just people who are 'responsible' and actually want to help out the average person and our country

    March 29, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • Jeff S

      Atheists...dominated by radical Islamists. Guess we know which intelligence grouping Newt "The Betrayer" Gingrich is speaking to...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:06 am |
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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.