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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. CTexas

    Republicans and islamists....now that is scary indeed. Newt you are a pandering has-been.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  2. onlynthed

    scaring people into votes

    i hope people don't buy into this BS

    March 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  3. bandgeek1

    Color me confused, but how can one be "secular, atheist" yet run by radical Islamists? I think this bozo is trying to hit all the hot fear buttons to see which one gets him nominated. I, personally, am hoping one operated the ejector seat and he finds his bigoted backsides back in Georgia teaching creation "science" to his fan base.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  4. Adam

    So how are his comments different from any other right wing religious nut job? Looking beyond his blatant contradictions I completely ignore any of these rants. How do you spell fear: G-O-P. I am completely at peace with not beleiving in a higher being, so I don't care what washed up fear mongers like Newt has to say. Good luck in 2012 GOP, predicting a front runner for the nomination is less likely than picking Butler and VCU in the Final Four!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  5. Tom

    Well, there's one person I would never vote for.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  6. Karen

    Does he understand that there is a great difference between Islamists and Atheists? The Muslims want Atheists gone as much as the right wing. It will be a battle in the streets between the Christians and Muslims. Hope I am not alive when this happens. I am a well educated Atheist not a blind follower of a book of fairy tales that says anyone who is different is to be hated and feared. Besides, Gingrich is a world class hypocrite. Doesn't understand the real meaning of marriage.? I have been married to the same man for 33 yrs and wouldn't dream of cheating.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  7. Alyssa

    " one of martial indiscretions"

    Come on editors. Martial = marital.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  8. Jim

    If Newt Gingrich's views and behavior reflect what he believes a Christian nation should look like...I would much prefer an atheist one!!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  9. Jeff

    All religions are worthless. To bad humans need to believe in fairy tails to make it through life. Sad very sad

    March 29, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  10. Nicky D

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists"

    A secular country... dominated by radical Muslims....sigh

    March 29, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Nord

      Since Sarah Palin's candidacy, it seems to be popular for Republican politicians to frame their discourse in Gibberish.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  11. Minister of Mow

    Christian values are so unfashionable these days. And isn't it cool when an aetheist shakes his fist at God, I mean whose the fool there? It is so easy to reject God these days, but very few are willing to reject His blessings.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Barnum

      "He" has no blessings. "He" is a fictional construct used to control the unthinking masses. The "blessings," such as we have, were created by people. To think otherwise is to abdicate all responsibility.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Renny

      @Barnum, I spent 20 months in Iraq, I have never seen an "athiest" remain an "athiest" while he is being shot at, not one time. Funny how when their life is in danger "athiests" the first thing they do is call on "God" for protection. There is a reason for the saying, "There are no athiests in foxholes."

      March 29, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  12. Renny

    This country is based on the separation of church and state. What do you think Islamic majorities do in the country they rule? They use their "church" to rule the state. Name an Islamic majority country where there is any sort of separation between the government and religion. Can't name one can you? I think that is sort of what Newt was getting at. Though I don't think he should be president, he does have a point, though he "did not" say it very well

    March 29, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Minister of Mow

      I thought that Turkey was a majority muslim state with a secular government...was!

      March 29, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  13. Molly

    Dear Newt,

    Clearly your great Christian values were at work when you were screwing your mistress while your wife was sick and then proceeded to ask her for a divorce while she was in the hospital. I guess they teach you these types of "Christian" values at your place of worship. I am sorry, but being religious whether it be christian or otherwise does not give one the right to sin first then apologize after – come on Newt, even you would agree that, there are sins and then there are some unforgivable sins! You can't sin then hide behind your faith. I was raised in a non religious household but I was raised in a household that taught and valued the difference between right and wrong. My morals and that of my family are based on that and not on religion and yet non of us have committed adultry, theft, murder – you get the picture Newt, don't you. We know that we don't screw someone to get ahead. We were also taught the meaning hypocracy – you know that word right Newt? It means, you don't speak from both sides of your mouth but when you do, you must deal with the consequences...no, I don't mean that only my God is allowed to judge me and no one else, but it means that my peers will judge me. I was was taught that your actions will speak louder than words. I was also taught, to respect myself as well as others, while i may not agree with their ideology, respect must be shown. I was taught understanding, treating others the way that I wanted to be treated etc etc..you get the picture right Newt, and all this without God being in the picture. Again I ask Newt, what did your Christian values teach you.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  14. Paul

    Personally, I fear all those meat-eating vegans. They totally scare me!!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  15. VoipOfReason

    People tend to get the wrong idea about the founding fathers. ".. seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values". As FYI, there NEWT, the founding fathers, didn't intend any "christian" values for this country. If you do alittle bit of research, you'll see that many of the founding fathers did they're part to turn away professors & teachers who would teach "christian" values & Ideas, saying that they were in fact, the greatest threat.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • bandgeek1

      What's really scary is knowing this man:A) is a trained educator in history and social sciences and B) there are people who will actually swallow the bait he's throwing out, hook, line and sinker.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  16. Tom65

    I'm not sure who to be more ashamed of – Gingrich for spouting such crap, or the significant portion of our population who actually believe it.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  17. CSD

    Yeah, well not NEARLY as scary as a Kristian Amerikan Taliban running this country like the idiot tea baggers. Dopes can't figure out they are JUST as bad as every other "religion". One mans Inquisition is another man's jihad. One man's jihad is another man's child raping fun. All under the name of "religion".

    Religious cranks haven't figured it out yet – THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. The rest of us are just fine, thanks.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  18. John

    There we go Newt and the Replublicans again on the fear campaign. Really this guy is so funny I am wondering if the water he drinks has some kind of neurotoxins that impairs his perception of reallity. Please Newt stop the fear campaign. It does not work! Get something better or your next joke will be : God told me that if I am not elected presindent there will be a tsunami that will kill all americans!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Dave McGuire

      The trouble is, it DOES work. Look at the sheeple around you. Baa-baa, we shop at Wal*Mart because cheaper is better, even when it isn't. Baa-baa, let's give up our freedom for safety, we love the Patriot act! Baa-baa...
      There are about six thinking Americans left, and our greedy, power-hungry, fear-mongering government is just fine with that.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  19. Litmus Boogliner

    If they're atheists they wouldn't be Muslims. I fear a country of idiots like Newt who use fear and religion to bully weaker people into prejudicial thinking. They bully because they have nothing real or positive or intelligent to offer. If you don't have anything useful to say, say nothing.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Hass

      Nicely written. very nice...

      March 29, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • CTexas

      One thing we know for sure....Newt can't lead this country. I'd rather see a religious fanatic like Mike Huckabee.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  20. Clayton

    What is this guy smoking?! Atheists... and radical Islamists? Time to bust out my tin foil hat again!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Mike in NJ

      My response exactly. It's like he fears African-American Naz-is, or straight hairdressers. (I keed, I keed! ;) )

      March 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • CTexas

      God I hope the American people aren't stupid enough to elect this arrogant clown.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • caveman

      IF YOU DIDN'T WANT THE MUSLIMS HERE, HOW COME YOU DIDN'T PUT IMMIGRATION MEASURES TO ENSURE THAT AT THE BORDERS????? You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.. And as far as Muslims go... DON'T YOU WANT THEIR VOTE TOO? .. My god, what has this country come to. Maybe you should just let me be president and run it, but then, who want's to try and convince a panel of 235 people that you're right and they're not. That's not exactly my idea of fun.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Hass

      lol. so ture

      March 29, 2011 at 8:55 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.