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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 • Faith Now • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Texas

soundoff (2,228 Responses)
  1. Kent

    Oh rats, we've been Newtered again.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  2. Joe B

    Atheists tend to be people who are wary of false claims and examine evidence thoroughly... No wonder Republicans fear them so much.

    Plus Republicans rely on wedge strategy politics for votes. Keep the Christians fired up about gays and abortion and they'll turn a blind eye to the war on the American worker. Wedge politics don't work very well on critical thinkers.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  3. BrianInMesa

    I am a proud American, military retiree and an atheist. Yet I pray every day. Here is my prayer:

    Lord protect my from your followers.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  4. Kent

    No, what he really fears is that people won't worship him. He needs to go and try to be quiet.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  5. Aldo Raines

    Newt could not show himself more of an idiot than this..A country dominated by Islamists would not be atheist. Does he even know what the word "atheist" even means?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  6. thack

    Gingrich is a nut. He has quickly shown us that he will wage his campaign on the "old" republican platform of fear and hate. Thank you Newt, I'll be sure not to vote for you.

    Oh, by-the-way, how does that christian @ss taste?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  7. Dan

    Newt is the biggest GOD DAMN (that's right I damned GOD) hypocrite of all time. The man never mentioned God once in his sordid life of lies and cheating on his many wives until now. Now that the Republican party has been hijacked by crazed religious zealots. And he's a man of history? The founding fathers were NOT religious at all, in fact most were likely atheists. But now according the man with the facts, the founding fathers didn't believe in separation of church and state, no in fact they believed everyone needed to be a devout christian (HA!). And the most laughable part of Newt's ranting to the right, Muslims are now in coo-hoots with atheists... the most wild statement I've heard yet. Newt, Atheists are not zealots who believe we should go to war for believing in fairy tales. They are peaceful people. Radical Muslims believe in killing in the name of God, so I very much doubt the two groups would get along very well. I really believe Newt's lost what's left of his warped mind.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  8. Phil

    The country of Sweden is 80% athiest. There crime rate is less than half of ours. Good quality of life too. Go figure.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  9. Jane

    Seriously Newt...all I hear when you talk is white noise. Nothing makes me fall asleep faster....ZZZZzzzz BTW the chances of my daughter's generation voting for you are 1 in never. Bye

    March 29, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  10. Jo

    An athiest country led by radical islamists, okay there buddy obviously you are not think before you speak so I think its best if you just stop talking and ry to say something intelligent foronce.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  11. Donnie H.

    Yeah Atheist's are the ones to fear. Not the religious people who have killed millions fighting over religion, the crusades, burning people they thought were witches, the children victimized by the pedophile priests, terrorism, etc. Yeah the Atheist who tends to look more to science to explain the world around them rather than having a petty self involved vindictive God that determines fate with a wave of his magical hand. It is the religious people that are the first pass judgment even though their religion tells them not to. Ahhh thats another one of those parts of the bible we ignore because it doesn't fit our views or agenda. I'm an Atheist. An Atheist who served his country in 2 wars as well as serving my community as an Asst. Fire Chief/ EMT for over a decade as well as volunteering with a second department near my home. My entire adult life I have put my life on the line on a daily basis for those I have never met. I guess I'm one of those horrible;e demon Atheists that pose a threat. Bottom line you do not have to be religious to be a good caring person. Prisons are full of more religious people than Atheist's...

    March 29, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Phil

      Amen!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:24 am |
    • joe

      Great post!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • TheNumber

      Thanks, Donnie for your service and being a good American. It's a shame that it isn't enough for some to just be good Americans regardless of religion, race or social status. I'm a damn proud American and I happen to be an Atheist.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  12. jdoe

    An atheist country dominated by radical Islam? Didn't know Gingrich is a comedian.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  13. ijreilly

    Question to theists- Does a person, or soul, have the ability to sin in heaven?- In regards to the idea of free will.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • Johnny Monsarrat

      The concept of Heaven has a number of flaws if you think through it. You are reunited with your family. What if you don't get along with your family? You are freed from pain. What if your pain defines you, makes you creative? If we cannot sin in Heaven, is that really "us" or is that some variant personality that's not really us?

      Theists answer all these questions with a dodge. They just say, "It's unknowable." Or better yet, they shame you for daring to question God. "It's not for us to know." Ultimately, there are so many unknowns about Heaven and Hell that it's surprising that we can claim to know anything about them at all. I would think that a full retreat from asserting they exist would be in order.

      But that would take away the big carrot and stick of religion, a big source of their power. So I guess a certain extent of Heaven and Hell *is* "for us to know".

      March 29, 2011 at 3:55 am |
  14. Bill55

    Gosh, I never new that Muslims were atheists.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  15. Ian

    Epic Idiocy. with everything that is 'actually' a concern in this country and in the world. But wait....Atheism trumps them all! Gasp!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  16. Red79

    Article 11 Treaty of Tripoli. "The United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." I weep for this country's future if this group of Republicans gains anymore power. off to look at property in Scandanavia just to be prepared.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  17. mickflanigan

    F this stupid belief blog. Worthless trash. Atheist is the way to go, no more fighting over fairy tales!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • trevor

      trevor likes this

      March 29, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • DJCowboy

      That won't do anything. We'd just find something else to fight about. It's in our nature

      March 29, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • thack

      I agree. However, you need to remember that christian leaders are taking taking people's money and laughing at them out of the corner of their mouth.

      People just don't want to come to grips that this life is the only one they get. I say make the most of this one, live hard and die happy.

      Thanks for your post.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  18. Adam

    what's the separation of church and state?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  19. cnnshouldcheckusgs

    I lean republican but this is just dumb. Even I think I would vote for obama over this nut.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  20. trevor

    Yea, thank God America isn't a Theocracy.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Biff

      Well at least we know the Tea Party is a thing of the past! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSUv20JAF4U

      March 29, 2011 at 2:33 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.