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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. Rudedog

    Gingrich teaching morals? And it's NOT on SNL? Doesn't anybody get the joke?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  2. liz

    And sane people fear Newt Gingrich

    March 29, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  3. Slash

    Gingrich '12 campaign slogan:

    "YES WE CAN...PANIC NOW"

    March 29, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  4. JAB

    What religion does he see fit to run this country? Any radicalization of any religion is not good.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  5. Peri Browner

    Those of us who don't share Newt's imaginary friend have long feared his brand of Christian Fundamentalist Taliban. We know if they could, they would take us all out to the nearest soccer stadium and shoot us in the head. He is the one to fear!!! Last time I read the 1st amendment, I had the right to choose what I do and don't believe in.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  6. Student

    I hope that other religious minorities will stand with us in rejecting this bozo.

    I also wonder if Newt expects those two darling grandchildren to go to college and learn from the same professors that he wrongly claims are trying to wipe out the Founding Father's value (while he's busy shredding the first amendment).

    March 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  7. Brent

    Why are churches still tax exempt when they can still have political messages within their walls? I say tax the churches a flat tax. Even at a low percentage it will help our budget. All of that money should go to the programs in which the churches should be helping anyway. I refuse to step foot into a church that does not reach out into the community to help those that are in need. There are churches near me constantly build new buildings with all of their riches and never give to the community.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Peri Browner

      Because of the GOP. Group of Philistines, Gang of Perverts, take your choice. Karl Rove has succeeded in making us hate each other.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  8. DanT

    Why has no one here, not even CNN, seen the outright contradiction in Newt's statement that "we will live in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists". Atheists don't believe in the existence of a God or in organized religion. Radical islamists are extremely religious and do believe in a God. Our country can't be atheist and dominated by radical Islamists at the same time. It's a total contradiction. I used to think Newt was smart (if not a little wacky) but now I think he's just wacky AND an idiot.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Odds

      What? You really think nobody here recognizes this contradiction? Have a little faith in your fellow man. We're not THAT stupid!

      Atheists in this country aren't anti-Christian because they're offended by the concept of a Christian God. They're anti-Christian because people like Newt constantly stir up anti-Atheist sentiment in order to secure votes. They feel their values are under attack the same way you do, and they react in the same way you do.

      The truth is that we work together, live together, and coexist more or less happily. The average person of any faith is far more tolerant than we're led to believe, and we know this from personal experience. Really, when was the last time you met an extremist at your place of business or in your neighborhood? Is it really plausible that all of these people are all around you and out to get you because of your faith or lack thereof?

      When people find out I'm an atheist, sometimes they're shocked. Other times they're somewhat offended. But most times they're simply curious and have difficulty wrapping their heads around the way I view the world because it's just so different from their own point of view.

      I'm the same way. I spend plenty of time pondering why other people harbor such different beliefs from my own. If it weren't for that exposure I might even fall into the trap of believing that other people are irreconcilably different. But I know that they're asking the same questions I am. They just arrive at different answers.

      What we should all be able to agree upon, however, is that frauds like Newt are simply trying to divide us. He's the enemy. Not God, Christians, Atheists, or Muslims. It's people like Newt who will tell you whatever it is they think you want to hear so that you'll vote for them. He couldn't care less what he says just so long as you'll check his name off at the ballot box. If he really wanted to save America he would send a message of understanding that encourages us to see the similarities in each other rather than the differences.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  9. NorthEast

    An "atheist country dominated by radical islamists" is a contradiction Newt. Just like calling liberals communist socialists. Anything to fire up the ignorant base I guess.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  10. PulTab

    i pray for an atheist united states!

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

      I could only laugh when I saw this! That saying would make an awesome bumper sticker.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  11. dhb613

    Maher mocks Gingrich for hypocritical moralizing:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/03/05/bill_maher_newt_gingrich_exploratory_committee/index.html

    March 29, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  12. JEANNE

    I believe in God – but I do not believe in organized religion. People can beleive in what ever they want – just be kind, caring and helpful and most of all – NOT JUDGMENTAL

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

      the best thing i read today

      March 29, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Ed

      Thank you for being a sensible, level headed, patriotic, spiritual person. I am sorry so many others give you a bad name. I am glad to know that there are people on the inside looking in.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  13. Questions For Believers

    1. Can you communicate with your god or is your god one of presence only?

    2. Do you equate emotions with accurate perception even with proof that you are wrong?

    3. Can your god change physical things in this universe or is your god spiritual only?

    4. How do you determine what your god wants, thinks, and feels?

    5. If you rely on words written by human beings, how do you determine whether those words are "inspired" by your god or not?

    6. If you rely only on your internal feelings for your faith, how do you determine the shape of that faith without relying on other human beings?

    7. If you have a god, what attributes does your god have and why do you believe that these attributes are accurate beyond a shadow of a doubt?

    8. Under what circ.umstances would it be okay for someone else to lie about your god? And how would you be able to determine whether they lied or not?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  14. Common Sense

    What he fears is a athiest nation kow towing to muslim extremists in a act of pacifism.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Odds

      No. Newt doesn't fear that at all. But he's counting on you and I to buy into that fear so that we'll turn to him for protection. He wants to be your President, yes, but he also sees himself as God's right hand.

      We've been polarized by a tried and true strategy of divide and conquer. People like Newt know that the path to power lies in demonizing the opposition. Make you fear that all other alternatives are going to destroy your way of life and he'll be your only option. He knows that if he can play upon your fears you'll vote for him as the lesser of two evils or perhaps even see him as the savior he pretends to be.

      As a Christian secure in your faith you should fear neither Muslims nor Atheists, neither of which are out to get you.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  15. cnj5954

    Rational People Fear Republican Party Becoming the Party of Lunacy and Shrinking Intelligence.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  16. John

    So want are you going to do bring your kid to be come Racist, that what wrong with America now to many people like you. In the bible god say all people are his children.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  17. Chris

    New Newt Newt. We would not dare take God away from you faith-clingers because we realize it would make you that much crazier upon realizing that your life is not in the hands of some all powerful being with a plan for your life. You're far too vain to accept such a concept with dignity.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  18. JohnCL

    I come late to this discussion, but it's clear from Gingrich's statement at Cornerstone, that espouses the notion that the term "non-Christian" is synonymous with atheist. Obviously, this is a wrong, ignorant and stupid viewpoint but he had to say it to continue his practice of pandering to his immediate audience. What does that say about this particular audience?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  19. Michael

    Yes, radical Islamists are plotting to take over America, then eradicate their own religion to force an atheist state upon us...
    Wow, Gingrich must have been popping Oxycontin with Rush Limbaugh before he went on stage with that one.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  20. tj

    Newt, How can you have an atheist country dominated by Muslims? Atheist don't recognize any diety. Muslims recognize the same diety as you. Thet just have a different messenger.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • blaqmajik

      tj....Thank you! that was the very first thing that came to mind, newt is just full of it.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Maryann

      First thing that came to my mind too! Does he connect Radical Islam with Atheists? Such an idiotic statement. And he wants to be president? He was also for the no fly zone over Libya until Obama did it, then he was against it. What a tool.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • John John

      Don't try to figure out the GOP. Cow poop is cow poop.

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

      My first thought too- Newt is a moron.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Odds

      Newt's smarter than he looks. He knows that the best way to stir up the evangelical right in this country is to play upon their fears of a secular, left-wing establishment attempting to erode traditional American values. Mix in a healthy dose of Islamist and Atheist bogeymen and the evangelicals are ready to replace God with a picture of Newt transposed upon a background of stars and stripes.

      I really feel for the Christians in this country. The people who should be representing you are instead preying upon your deepest fears and most heartfelt convictions. How many of you have heard your friends and family rationalize their faith by explaining to non-believers: "If I'm wrong, then I've spent my life doing good. But if I'm right, then I go to Heaven rather than suffering for all eternity."? The basis for your faith isn't fear, is it? You don't believe simply because you're afraid of being wrong. You believe because God is great and being a good Christian is the right thing to do.

      Newt is a clever guy. He knows that many of you have doubts and that faith is a journey, not a destination. He doesn't believe as you believe. He's simply using you to get what he wants. But don't listen to me. Just look at his past. Has he lived like a good Christian should? Or does he simply mouth the words to gain your approval?

      You know the truth of it. Don't allow yourselves to be fooled by this wolf-in-sheep's-clothing.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:25 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.