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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. Tim

    I'm still trying to figure out what an atheist has in common with a radical Islamist... pretty much nothin'.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Yep... he's just spouting a random bunch of crap that he thinks will scare the "good Christian volk" into voting for him. Are these the kind of minds we want in any position of authority?!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  2. XZ

    THIS IS WHY NEWT GINGRICH WILL NEVER, AGAIN, NEVER BE PRESIDENT !

    March 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  3. Jon

    Wow. Flashback to the 1990's here. Riddle me this, Newt – hasn't the US been primarily a secular country since its founding?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  4. Bhushta

    this man is moving from being an irrelevant joke to a new category: lunatic. Cannot the GOP come up with a real candidate? Sounds to me like the republicans have given up on 2012 and are letting the party nut cases have a go at it. Then perhaps someone intelligent will emerge on their behalf for 2016.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Another Larry

      The evidence is all around us that they know they have nothing to sell. That's why all they seem capable of doing is demonizing Obama. In the 2008 campaign their message was clear: Fear Obama and vote for the other guy. Apparently they think it will work better in 2012.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  5. Another Larry

    I fear a Gingrich country.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Bhushta

      the irony is that members of Radical Islam are the closest counterparts of rightwing Christian fundamentalists. Both want a theocracy, both interpret their scriptures in the most bizarre way, and both are hateful and divisive. In short, both are the closest we have to being demonic, in the name of God.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Another Larry

      A lot of people who try to scare everyone with claims Muslims want to impose their beliefs on others openly advocate laws discriminating against Muslims. Some even want to ban it.

      Frankly, all this fear Christians experience over a supposed takeover by Muslims only proves they don't even believe their own myths. If there is a God and what Christians believe about him is true, why don't Christians trust God to use the spirit to influence the hearts and minds of people to make them Christians instead of Muslims?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  6. Mike in KC

    Newt's a model Catholic....right. Two extra-marital affairs Newt? You have no moral credibility. As a practicing Catholic I find your behavior and fear-mongering shameful.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  7. Dan

    I'm not sure which is more ironic: Gingrich's own infidelity or the ridiculous axis of atheism and radical Islam. If a faithless American is un-American, what was Gingrich when he cheated on his wife who had cancer?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Another Larry

      "If a faithless American is un-American, what was Gingrich when he cheated on his wife who had cancer?"

      Apparently a Real American™ Republican, just like John McCain.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Colin

    Fearing atheists and Muslims is like fearing both disease and medicine. We atheists are as opposed to radical Islam as we are to right wing Christianity...even moreso, given the freedome it would attempt to take off others.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Mr. Bones

    Well THAT makes about as much sense as...uh...something that don't make much sense.

    He realizes that, by definition, you can't be a "secular atheist" and a "radical [insert religion here]" at the same time, doesn't he?

    It almost sounds like he just had a big hat filled with "Words That Upset Stupid Old White People" in it, and pulled them out at random. "Uh...radical Islam! Secular atheist! Flag burning! Education! Black people! Spanish! Peace! TERRORISTS!!! Barack Hussein Obama! HUSSEIN, PEOPLE, HUSSEIN!!! DON'T YOU GET IT?! HUSSEIN!!! [dramatic pause] Gay people getting married."

    March 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Another Larry

      "He realizes that, by definition, you can't be a "secular atheist" and a "radical [insert religion here]" at the same time, doesn't he?"

      He realizes the people he's trying to manipulate fear both kinds of people and aren't smart enough to recognize the contradiction. The more scary words you can pile on the more fear you can engender. He's targeting the same idiots who believed Obama was a black liberation theology Christian Muslim and still believe he's a communist socialist Marxist fascist Nazi.

      The more scared and outraged they are the less rational they are. He's counting on that.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • VTMaid

      Wait! You forgot "global warming" and "immigration"

      March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  10. Joseph

    Gingrich is a bigot. Anyone to divorce his dying wife on her death bed is flat out satanic. It's enough to make an honest Christian vomit, and most likely curdles the blood of atheists too.

    Newt's toxic rhetoric has done more damage to America than he will ever know. He is the definition of a hypocrite. In summary, he can never be trusted.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Godstar

      Newts a 'Christian' when it comes to politics, meaning only when it will get him elected. I didn't even realize he was a self-professed Christian till this article.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  11. Foz-man

    You know what this means?

    4 MORE YEARS! 4 MORE YEARS!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  12. IceT

    This is someone desparate to garner, what he believes to be, the larger voting block (I hope). If he actually believes what he is saying he's not fit to be president .. if he's only doing this for votes then he's still not fit to be president.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  13. Al

    Is there any depth too low for Newt to crawl? The man will say absolutely anything these days to pander to conservative Christians. These folks think they are being persecuted because the law keeps them from persecuting everyone else. They like to paint themselves as victims just because even most Christians disagree with their fundamentalist views.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Another Larry

      They're afraid of becoming a minority because they know how badly they've treated minorities. That fear is elevated to sheer terror at the thought the very minorities they've treated so badly will become a majority.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  14. Religious sects

    WOW, this guy is even nuttier than I always thought. He lives in fear, fear of Atheists, Muslims & who knows what...this is one of the LAST people I would want running this "free" country. WOW

    March 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  15. Thinker23

    It seems to me that a secular atheist state being run by Islam (radical or otherwise) or by any other traditional religion is indeed an oxymoron. Which religion you practice, Benzuda, when you pray for a secular atheist state? Just curious...

    March 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Benzuda

    Would it be an oxymoron to say I pray every day for a secular atheist state? At least then we know for a fact radical islam cannot ever take hold. Talk about fear mongering. At least get your facts straight Newt!

    "She turned me into a newt!... I got better"
    Monty Python

    March 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  17. Ron

    I am disappointed by Mr. Gingrich's statements. If he is concerned about American maintaining it's Christian heritage then he might start by encouraging those who to profess to be Christians to be "Christ like". Jesus did not spread fear and hate. He did (does) ask those who follow him to feed the hungry, cloth the poor, care for the disenfranchised, walk the second mile, and turn the other cheek. These concerns seem to be absent from the rhetoric that has come from Mr. Gingrich throughout his political career...how come?

    March 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Another Larry

      @Ron: "Jesus did not spread fear and hate. He did (does) ask those who follow him to feed the hungry, cloth the poor, care for the disenfranchised, walk the second mile, and turn the other cheek. These concerns seem to be absent from the rhetoric that has come from Mr. Gingrich throughout his political career...how come?"

      He can't pander to the Republican base talking like a Democrat.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  18. vego46

    When in doubt quote Jefferson, Give man enough freedom and he will reach perfection. No vices no pain. Religious people have a mental illness. They need re-programing. But thank god this is America and not yet the United Corporations of America, do what you want to do but do not infringe on my fundamental rights as a human and a American.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  19. David

    Wow...a secular atheist country that will be run by radical Islam. Nothing like making inflammatory remarks without actually contributing anything. It's also surprising, as an atheist myself, that I am not considered an American by Mr. Gingrich. It will be interesting to see him fail yet again in a bid for President.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Livingston

      Very well said. I jut hope he doesn't make money spreading his negativity.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mel B

      Palin already beat him to it. You're not an an American unless you agree with "their" values. I'm Pagan, and I've met more Pagans that are more ethical and moral than most of the Christians I already knew. My Stepmother believes "we should just bomb the entire Middle East and resolve the problem once and for all" along with claims that Obama is trying to take her religion away from her. It's more like the other way around. People like this clown and Palin are trying to take our spirituality away from us and any other organized religion that doesn't match their own.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  20. Scotrun

    Earth to Newt...."secular athetist" are opposed to radical Islam more than anyone else. Not to mention having a better understanding to what it means to be an American than you will ever possess.

    This whole speech amounts to Newt not having anything intelligent to contribute to the public dialog, so lets inflame a culture war with religious fear mongering How stupid can he believe the american public to be?

    Christianity and Islam will eventually fade in to mans history as all others before them. America and her values shall always be something greater all together and will hopefully outlast them both.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You wrote: "Christianity and Islam will eventually fade in to mans history as all others before them. "

      Unfortunately, not in my lifetime, and not in yours. Many people are very happy with their delusions and will resist any effort at education.

      March 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Lagarto13

      I thought Gingrich was more intelligent than to say that the country was run by people are somehow atheists and Muslims simultaneously. This guy sounds like Adolf Hitler. Is he proposing concentration camps for all non-Christians? Certainly sounds that way.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • William Marlowe

      Newt is paranoid and pandering to his 'base' and anyone stupid enough to vote for this 4 time adultering bonehead deserves what they get.. but if he is elected President I will want to move to Canada.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      Would anyone like to say the pledge of allegience? Yep that's right, "One nation under God."

      March 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • paganguy

      You have to realize the most of the fatty tissue of Newt's resides inside his skull. This guy is morally corrupt. Sued his ex for alimony, was convicted for election finances fraud in Texas.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • tbubb

      @Scotrun
      "America and her values shall always be something greater all together and will hopefully outlast them both."

      Now, I certainly don't agree with Gingrich, however I do feel the need to ask you just where you propose America got "her values" ?? Just what are they modeled after? Where is their precedent? I would encourage you to read your history to see just how Judaism, and subsequently Christianity have changed our world. ESPECIALLY how they've come to inform what we understand as our "values."

      March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • tbubb

      @Scotrun
      "America and her values shall always be something greater all together and will hopefully outlast them both."

      Now, I certainly don't agree with Gingrich, however I do feel the need to ask you just where you propose America got "her values" ?? Just what are they modeled after? Where is their precedent? I would encourage you to read your history to see just how Judaism, and subsequently Christianity have changed our world. ESPECIALLY how they've come to inform what we understand as our "values."

      March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • paganguy

      To TheTruth72: "under god" was added in by the US congress in 1958. When you don't know what to do, call the name of god. Brilliant.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • DEADINSIDE

      I couldn't agree with you more Scotrun. Our country gives us the most basic human right, freedom to believe what we want, the freedom of choice of religion (or lack there of). Sorry Newt, freedom is a very dangerous thing when you have an agenda of pushing your own beliefs off on to others. So please keep your god out of my government, and pray that it is never run by someone elses god! Do you allah get my drift?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • DEADINSIDE

      Oh yeah, by the way....nice name Lard

      March 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Scott

      @ tbubb
      "read your history to see just how Judaism, and subsequently Christianity have changed our world. ESPECIALLY how they've come to inform what we understand as our "values.""

      Hey man. Where did Judaism and Christianity get their values from? They didn't exist 4,000 years ago. Nearly everything we have now is an updated (twisted) version of something that came before it was invented.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:10 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.