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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. closeone

    well this means plain and simple you can have any other religion than Islam, and you can't be without a religion. Time for me to become Buddhist I think.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  2. Shills

    What baloney. Baloney, and more baloney. Not voting for this lawyer.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:00 am |
  3. Tom

    "one of martial indiscretions and divorces"

    "Martial" indiscretions? Presidents have those (such as the invasion of Iraq) ;-)

    March 29, 2011 at 4:57 am |
  4. Eric

    Let's not forget that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who also attended a radical Christian church for 20 years. See, you can have it both ways, just like having atheist Muslims.

    March 29, 2011 at 4:51 am |
  5. Kevin

    God save me from those that want to save me...

    March 29, 2011 at 4:25 am |
  6. Kevin

    Good job, Newt. You opened your big mouth and lost the election five meinutes after you started running...

    March 29, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  7. tmac8213

    How can you be atheist and Islamic? Whatever scares the Christians I guess?

    March 29, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  8. az

    good

    March 29, 2011 at 4:23 am |
  9. nelson

    i dont know why people pay attention to idiots like him

    March 29, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  10. L Lawson

    How in the world can it be atheist AND dominantly Islamic? You can't be atheist AND Islamic....

    March 29, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  11. Gingorilla

    Wow, the USA is blessed with such wise and godly leaders! Save us from the crazy atheists and Muslims (who happen to get along somehow in your pretend future, but anyway). Save us Mr Gingrich!

    March 29, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  12. Sal

    How in the hell would a secular Atheist country also be a radical Islamic country? Those two go about as well together as oil and water do. If this kind of moron is the best the GOP can do, I think you'll see trees and dogs being elected over the GOP candidates. What does it say about your candidates in the last election if one of the most bigoted nations on EARTH elects a Black man as president? Maybe we don't want someone with their finger on the button if they believe Armageddon is necessary for their imaginary Jesus to come back to party? Get these fundamentalist idiots out of your party or prepare for a 1,000 years of democrat leadership. Hmm...teaching my kids that man walked with dinosaurs 6,000 years ago, or acknowledging all evidence suggesting the Earth is billions of years old and man has only inhabited it for a fraction of that?

    March 29, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  13. Gingorilla

    Gingrich is the smartest guy to ever manipulate a congregation! Way to go, Gingy!

    March 29, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  14. Brian`

    I believe netanyahu calls people like Hagee, "useful idiots"

    March 29, 2011 at 4:04 am |
  15. Practicing Christian

    So let me see if I get this straight. A politician who openly sinned by brazenly breaking the holy sacrament of marriage is worried about a nation of sinners?

    That's the height of hypocrisy at its best. Obama is not my candidate but neither are you Mr. Gingrich. Even Jimmy Carter, for all his faults was at least a better practicing Christian than you. You left your chance in some soiled bed in DC or Georgia hotel years ago.

    March 29, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  16. g

    Gingrich is the enemy of normal Americans.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  17. Greg Forest

    Better be careful those religious nutcase Muslim atheists are out to get you. Is there a single brain cell working in the GOP anymore?

    March 29, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  18. HJC

    What I fear is politicians who try to advance their political aspirations by peddling fear and hatred. This buffoon wants to be President so bad he can't sleep nights ... or tell the truth during the day.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • bill

      Correct.

      March 29, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  19. Rev. Bob Shank

    Get these two some White Robes and a room at the same nut-house! They can study Hagees stupid "Rapture Charts" all day! We will blessed to be rid of these two heretics for a while! Hey! Maybe they will have room for a Mormon Heretic, Glenn Beck!

    March 29, 2011 at 3:49 am |
  20. noodlehead

    What Newt said, "an atheist country, dominated by radical Islamists", is an oxymoron. Wait, he IS a moron.

    March 29, 2011 at 3:48 am |
    • libertarian-atheist

      I too am trying to figure out what atheism and Islam have to do with each other. Is this guy retarded?

      March 29, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • Mike

      Atheism and Islam, two things evangelicals do not understand and fear. He's just feeding their fears, thereby motivating them to vote for him. He's a smart man, he knows exactly what he's doing. The Republicans' Machiavellian approach to politics should make us all realistically fear a rise in Right-wing extremism that is manipulated by these Republican politicians (who show by their actions that they are not religious, but instead use it as a manipulative tool). Right-wing extremism leads to a rejection of reason and science, which leads to book burning and violence, which leads to exactly what happened in the Germany in 1929.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:15 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.