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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. john

    My invisible man can beat up your invisible man. Now let's all kill each other...

    March 29, 2011 at 6:30 am |
    • IkanThink

      Dear Lard: Please protect me from your believers who seek to kill me. This I pray in the name of the other version of you.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  2. christopher

    where was this so called god when the tsunami hit?? or when jon bennet was abducted??? or when the catholic church was letting it's priests fondle children?? or when the sniper was picking off random drivers...???? you really think that he has some sort of right to judge US????? who does he have to stand in front of at the end of time????? why is he not held up to the same ideals and should he not be accountable for his actions, or lack thereof?? God?..... please!!! i pray to Barney the Dinosaur. same difference!

    March 29, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  3. Bill

    Well I'm sure glad we have that old moral guide Newt to keep us from going astray. After all, he's pretty experienced with that astray part, isn't he?

    March 29, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  4. Bob

    Atheist country dominated by radical Islam? HUH? Anyway, this is what happens when you confuse religion with morality. Ever take a first-year philosophy course? Didn't think so. . . How about a headline that says, "Newt Fears What's Under His Bed"? Or "Newt Had Brain Meltdown 20 Years Ago"?

    March 29, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • IkanThink

      Education is dangerous, don't forget! Those damned professors and their critical thinking brainwashing strategies (see the oxymoron, Newt? ) Oh, no, that's right, you're brain is pure and empty.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  5. Pop Robot

    Why isn't everyone talking about the impossibility of a secular atheist country dominated by Islamist radicalists? It's by definition impossible.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  6. Mary Anthony

    But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Thomas Jefferson

    March 29, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  7. SarahLV

    He converted to Catholicism? Doesn't he realize that divorce isn't allowed amongst Catholics?

    March 29, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  8. Joebuddy

    Why religious people feel atheists are not loving caring people baffles me. As George Carlin said, religion is just another way to control how you think. Everything good that happens is done by GOD's hand, everything bad is out of his control???? Follow his comandments or be sent to hell and damnation, but.....he loves you...and....he needs money. Let's go with science over religion and I'll bet we see world peace in no time.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  9. Ted

    Oh no, don't tell me this b00b is back again...

    March 29, 2011 at 6:17 am |
  10. Thatguy371

    This blowhard's just trying to line up his (far far far right) base for 2012. Not fooling anyone but himself and like minded morons.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  11. TJeff1776

    Something is mentally wrong with Newt. Married thrice, and runs around on all three. I suppose thats common-place BUT
    what is not IS his preaching morally to the rest of us. What he does speaks so loud, I can't hear what he's saying.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  12. AJ

    We have seen enough other countries run by radical religious nutcases.

    I'm not sure which is worse, Republicans politicians pandering to the religious right (again), or members of the religious right who fall for this crap.

    This attempt to associate atheism with radical Islamists is is ridiculous, even for Gingrich.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  13. Jacob

    An atheist country lead by a group of non-atheists? That's scary, indeed.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  14. hehehe

    It is so hard to tell which of the GOP candidates is a bigger moron. They are just LOL crazy!

    March 29, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  15. Haid DeSalami

    I've had enough of these political whack jobs with a religious bent.

    Can we have a Stateman run this time instead of a bunch of game show hosts please.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  16. GM

    I just got back from a weekend trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. I was reminded of things I once learned but that had faded in my memory, such has how strongly Jefferson believed in the separation of church of state and of how strongly he believed that human knowledge and reason could and should be used to improve the human condition. It is people like Gingrich who are trying to rewrite history about our founding father's perspectives on religion.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  17. Barry from Wisconsin

    Gingrich preaching about religion……that is a JOKE! This person's personal life is hardly an example of how people – religious or not – should behave.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  18. catholic_dude

    I can't see any true conservative supporting this guy. It would be easy to point out his many failed attempts at honoring his marriage vows. Leaving first wife, (diagnosed with cancer) for 2nd with ms, etcetera...

    He knows nothing of faith. He has none himself. Ignore him, he'll go away or as soon as times get tough, he will bail out.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  19. Xavier

    Just remember, the Christian way is to be kind to your brothers and sisters, turn the other cheek, and never judge lest ye be judged...

    Unless they pray to a different invisible man than you do. Then they have to join you or we all die and God will hate you. Stay classy, religion.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Bosco56

      "be kind to your brothers and sisters"? Ya' mean kinda' like the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials?

      March 29, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • max

      Believe in Jesus Christ. When you open your hearts to Him, you open your ears to truly hear for the first time.
      Gods proof is in front of your eyes. Gods word is within your reach. I hear the word tolerance thrown around here quite a bit. Jesus did not preach tolerance. He said, when asked, the most important rule was to love God before all others. He did not preach that it's perfectly alright to go against Gods established will & do whatever you want. He said He did not come to abolish the Law of the Old Testament. He also used the phrase " Go and sin no more" more than once.
      The idea that Jesus would say it's alright to be a Buddhist, or Muslim is incorrect.
      Live and let live & Whatever Get's You Through are not quotes found in the Bible, & the Bible is the only word of the one true God.
      Christians are not under any obligation to hold hands with worshipers of false gods or blasphemers for the benefit of worshipers & blasphemers.
      We are obligated to treat them respectfully, & help them when they are in need, as our neighbors, no matter their belief.
      As long as it's at no expense to our obedience to God.
      God is calling His people back...day & night. You are all His people, every one of you.
      All you have to do is invite Him back into your life. He knew you before you were in your mothers wombs, & He will answer.

      March 29, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Another Larry

      @max: "Jesus did not preach tolerance... We are obligated to treat them respectfully, & help them when they are in need, as our neighbors, no matter their belief."

      That's what tolerance means.

      "Whatever Get's You Through are not quotes found in the Bible"

      Actually, it's the basis of all religions. Every religion is a narrative people choose to believe because they like it better than the alternatives. It helps them get through life.

      "Gods proof is in front of your eyes."

      You look at ordinary things and claim they're proof when in fact there is no proof at all.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Craig

    It's that Christian = American crap again. And how can an atheist country be dominated by radical islamists? What's scary about Republicans is not the politicians. It's how many of their rabid, drooling, frothing-at-the-mouth followers buy this nonsense without ever firing off one synapse.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • cosmicsnoop

      You made the exact point I was going to. How can we be Atheist, but ruled by a religion: Islam? This statement is beyond ridiculous. Plus, there are not enough Muslims in this country to take it over and if we are heading toward secularism, why would we allow a minority religion take over the country? It makes me wonder if this guy is truly stupid or he believes the people who will listen to him are truly stupid to not see through this cr@p?

      March 29, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • Another Larry

      Sadly both sides have plenty of folks who apply no critical thinking to what they people they like tell them.

      March 29, 2011 at 7:25 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.