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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. Johnny Monsarrat

    Regardless of whether you agree, a speech like positions Gingrich out of the running for the US Presidency. Someone this far right would find it very hard to tack back towards being a centrist which is what gets you elected. A long shot candidate in the view of most political commentators, Gingrich is clearly playing up a possible Presidential candicacy in an attempt to polish his political credentials, sell more books and public lectures, and perhaps get a seat at someone else's table.

    Having profoundly intolerant but sincerely held views is shameful, though valid. Promoting intolerance for self-gain is inexcusable. Oddly, by making these comments on CNN we are allowing Gingrich more time in the limelight than he deserves. But fear not. These quips make a short-term splash in the press that quickly falls off. In twenty years no one will remember Newt Gingrich, just as only newslovers remember Dan Quayle now.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  2. Joe B

    Sorry Christians, the culture war is a war of attrition... you can only hold out for so long.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  3. Allen Russell

    kill all religious people and burn their corpses and be done with them

    March 29, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • Annie

      Ummm....and that would solve??????? How about if all people like yourself were killed and you corpses burned?

      March 29, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  4. KevinS

    Ummm... Atheist is at the opposite end of the religious spectrum from Radical Islamist. They support the creation of a theocracy. An atheist society would reject all religions. His very premise is utter nonsense. How can anyone listen to this raving moron?

    March 29, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  5. Stacy

    um, wait....atheist AND Islamic???? huh? oxymoronic. Newt=moronic

    March 29, 2011 at 3:34 am |
  6. adrifter

    Gingrich's comments – aside from being your basic GOP fearmongering – makes no sense. How can a country be secular/atheist and dominated by radcal Islamists at the same time? The comment contradicts itself. Even with your own high standards of nonsense, Newt, I think you've outdone yourself.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:32 am |
  7. Mark P. Kessinger

    Speaking as a Christian of the Episcopalian variety, I have to say that the prospect of an Atheist United States doesn't scare me half as much as does Ginrich's version of a Christian U.S.

    But actually, what Gingrich claims to fear - "an atheist U.S. dominated by radical Islamists" – is an oxymoron. (But then, perhaps Newt is a moron, so that's appropriate enough.) Whatever else may be said of "radical Islamists," they are not atheists. They may have beliefs about God that we might not subscribe to, but they are definitely not atheists.

    Gingrich is a moral cretin who cares no more for the U.S. than he did for his first two wives. He's a shameless self-promoter and snake oil salesman who will take any position he thinks will get him were he wants to go. Send him back to the Georgia swamps where he belongs.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • Annie

      Excuse me, Mr. Kessinger, but may I inform you that all of Georgia is NOT swamps, nor are all Georgians moral cretins! You, sir, claim to be a Christian yet claim you would not fear an atheist US, but would fear a US with Gingrich as its leader. Let us remember that the president has checks and balances, and while Gingrich may not be the best choice for a president, at least he does promote some moral values, and a belief in God. Have any of you people who are commenting here and bashing Gingrich ever considered that the man just might possibly have repented of his past sin and been forgiven? If so, he just needs to come clean, admit his wrongdoing, and do whateve it takes to make things right in his life and between him and his God. If he is indeed sincere and is a just person, we would be much better off than with an atheist. We have enough ungodliness and filth as it is. I do believe in seperation of church and state and do not believe Christianity should be forced upon anyone, but I believe a Godly person, Gingrich or not, would make a better leader for making decisions in a non-religious manner because if he were a true Christian, his conscious and moral value system would not allow greed and dishonesty to be a part of any facet of his responsibilities in life. Now, with all that being said....I will say to you that Georgia is a very beautiful state with some swamps, but also mountains, forests, streams, rivers, beaches, and culture. Also, I might remind you that it is rich in history, being one of the thirteen original states of this country!

      March 29, 2011 at 4:45 am |
    • Norman

      Annie, didnt daddy warbucks teach you anything? who forgave newt? he cheated on his wife while she died of cancer! theres no forgiving that-your God may have forgiven him? who cares what your God is/was/thinks?

      Truth is that this morally reprehensible man cheated on his first wife while she died then did it again on his second while he prosecuted clinton for a blo-wj-ob. There is no way in hell this man will be elected as a family values man-no way

      atheism is amazing-most atheists know the bible than the religious because atheists become atheists by study-when one studies religion, it becomes clear that it was created by man to control others-the bible is historically prioven to be written by man, edited by man, etc-man cannot be trusted

      im glad you have faith in something-i call it laziness, but it is helpful to some who cant think for themselves or need someone to follow-just keep it to yourself-we dont need mythology running the most powerful country in the world

      March 29, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • thack

      Mark, it's very hard for christians to accept that atheist have a better understanding of the bible than they do. That is a fact not fiction. If christians want to be taken seriously, then they should at least understand the rantings of their beliefs. By-the-way, thanks for your post.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  8. Ryan

    I'd be curious to know what Newt thinks "it means to be an American". I can think of a few catch phrases: The right to practice (or not) your own religion; all men are created equal; liberty and justice for all; SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.

    I think more critical on the agenda is not our path to God, but rather fiscal responsibility, economic reform, jobs... and dare we mention sustainability....

    March 29, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  9. alykat

    The only thing scarier than people like Newt Gingrich...('Islamic Atheists', Newt??!!!!) are the people that would vote for him........

    March 29, 2011 at 3:29 am |
  10. Canonscottage

    I think Newt needs some instruction on semantics (not semitics!) Muslims are not atheists - they have a belief in God - the same God as Christians and Jews. Together, the three religions form the Abrahamic faiths. I think I'd rather have a secular atheistic society than a secular Christian society that is prevalent throughout the Western world.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  11. Me

    Lets see, atheist means one doesn't believe in a supreme being. If the country is atheist how can it be dominated by Islamists, seems to me that it would be dominated by rational thinking athiests, (which btw is what America and the world for that matter needs)? Oh I get it Islamic people don't beieve in a supreme being. LOL

    March 29, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • Annie

      In fact, there IS a supreme being, God, who is in charge of this world, whether atheists want to believe it or not. While Mr. Gingrich may not be what he purports, nor the right leader for this country, it does not negate the existence of God. If you openly and correctly read and study the Bible, you will see that the prophecies of God are currently, and have up until now, being/been fulfilled. Read Matthew chapter 23 and there is no doubt whatsoever that the things happening globally and here in the US are fulfilling the prophecy of the end time of this world and life. Of course, this is my belief and it is indeed truth; but it is not to be forced upon anyone. You may profess to be atheistiic, and say you do not believe any of this; but that does not do away with Truth. It is very clearly being fulfilled and what God has declared WILL come to pass whether anyone chooses to believe otherwise or not. TRUTH will prevail, and no one can stop it.

      March 29, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Norman

      Annie, please-no more crazy!

      March 29, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • E Mckeresk

      Annie –

      Christians said that end-times prophecy was being fulfilled during the Civil War. They said we were in the end times when WWI started, then again when WWII started. They said the Kaiser was the anti-Christ, then they said Hitler was the and-Christ, then it was Stalin, then Mao, etc.

      Not much of a track record of accuracy.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  12. LOW LYF

    OH THIS IS SAD

    March 29, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  13. Joe B

    Hey Newt, what is the punishment for adultery in the Bible? Oh, that's right death by stoning! Newt, if you REALLY want America to be a "Christian nation" then you should volunteer to be the first one publicly executed for infidelity.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Annie

      Actually, the "death by stoning" for adultery was part of the Old Testament law, which was done away with by the grace which Jesus Christ brought. We are not bound by the law, but live a new life by grace. Now, this does not mean a person can do whatever he pleases and just say "Oh I live under grace so I am OK". One must repent of sin as Jesus said, and sin no more. We are to live according to the New Testament grace, except Jesus DID say we must obey the Ten Comandments. Also, we are to make things right after confessing and repenting....this means apologize, return what was stolen, admit to lies and tell the truth, forgive others for their faults, love our fellow men as ourselves, study God's word and pray daily, and strive towards perfection. We are NOT perfect.....we strive TOWARDS perfection, which will be enacted when we reach heaven if we live as God instructs. There is much good in some of what Newt says, however; he needs to repent of his past if he is sincere, and do whatever needs to be done to make things right, then go on to live his life according to the Bible. Whether he will do so or not remains to be seen. If he is indeed a hypocrite and a liar, he will not succeed, nor will he be allowed into the haven of rest which is promised to the faithful of God.

      March 29, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • E Mckeresk

      @Annie – If that's the case, why do Christians constantly cite the Old Testament in their arguments about gay marriage? You can't have it both ways. You can't pick and chose which laws from the Old Testament you think should be abided by and which shouldn't.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  14. Tom

    This guy has been, still is, and will always be one of the scariest creatures on the planet.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  15. john

    does anyone find what he said to be contradictory. an atheist country run by islamic fundamentalists? what?

    March 29, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • tkim

      That's republican speak. Gotta throw something Islamic or Muslim in so the fear pot boils properly with the minions.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:43 am |
  16. Chris

    I fear a "christian" country where other people's beliefs, which are not my beliefs, are codified into law. Keep your religion OUT OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Daniel

      People like this is exactly why this great nation is in such sad shape . Afraid of Christians ?
      Nobody is forcing you to go to church , nobody is forcing you to believe in Christianity .
      Fellowship goes along ways , but you would'nt know this , you don't go to church .

      March 29, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • Joe B

      @ Daniel

      Except Christians keep trying to inject their dogma into the nations laws and into our public schools. If Christians had it their way atheists would be hunted down and driven out of America.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  17. Adolf Hitler

    Mein Gott! You American right-wingers try to create the Forth Reich, und vile you have the necessary fear and hate started, you don't have a charismatic leader like me. Having Gingrich und Palin und Bachmann und Romney trying to be fuhrer, Nein! That would be like trying to create Nazi Germany with Goering or Goebbels as Fuhrer. Vould not work!

    By the way, have you ever noticed that the Mormon religion is what would result if the Third Reich was run by the Brady Bunch?

    March 29, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  18. Kim

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” As an atheist, I find that statement to be the stupidest thing I have ever read!!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Dan

      I agree with you. He needs a brain...

      March 29, 2011 at 3:17 am |
    • Dulcimer

      Glad I wasn't the only one to notice that.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Kevin

      (Mr. Rogers voice) Can you say "mutually contradictory", boys and girls?... I knew you could!-.It looks like mean, old Mister Gingrich has spent too much time in the 'Land of Make-Believe'!

      March 29, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Darrin

      Amen. A moronic statement from a moron.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  19. Robb

    The only fear of an Atheist United States is that it will put Religion out of business. Next to our government, religion is the biggest scam out there. Just a bunch of freeloaders getting rich off of the working man's money. Our government is supposed to be servants of the people, and our churches are suppossed to be servants of God. Both are nothing but money junkies looking for their next fix.

    Power corrupts the feeble minded...I give you the United States Government as unparrallel proof.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Kim

      Robb, THUMBS UP!!!! I like the way you think!!

      March 29, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Christopher Range

      If you think religion is so bad, you might as well, not believe in yourself.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • chad

      Jesus thought religion was bad. As a Christian I, also, believe religion is bad. You do not have to have a religion to be spiritual and understand Jesus' message. Indoctrination is not needed to have a relationship with God. These aren't my words, but that of Jesus, of whom I am a follower.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • chad

      if one misspells "unparalleled" are they feeble minded as well?

      March 29, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Bill Sargent

      @Christopher Range : That makes no sense whatsoever.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Annie

      True definitely of our government, however; God DOES have a people who are real and true. There may not be so large in number as the "so-called" and the hypocrites, but they are there. I have lost confidence in many professing Christians and churches, myself, and I can see their money-grubbing antics. Many who portray to be more straight-laced and strict than others will overlook certain things in their quest to obtain the almighty dollar. This is sad and wrong, but let us not condemn the real followers of Christ who walk the road that as Jesus put it, "straight is the gate and narrow the way, and few there be that find it". God is the judge of who these are, and He knows them and they know Him. Gingrich may or may not be in that number....perhaps he has prayed sincerely and received forgiveness for his past sins....let God be the judge.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:56 am |
  20. jo an

    Let's see...Newt...is virtuous...he is a CHRISTIAN!! Never mind his cheating on two wives...and his lies...Obama has a wife and children and appears to be very faithful and upholds FAMILY VALUES....and Newt thinks he can be the leader of a virtuous nation... . I'm thinking he sounds like a NUT.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:53 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.