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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. capnmike

    I am an atheist. So what! This dirtbag Gingivitis fears a country run by people with common sense and logic instead of fairytales and lies? I know a few other atheists...none are evil people, or immoral, or any different from anybody else except that they haven't been brainwashed with a load of codswallop and religious baloney. People can be decent and well-behaved with a good upbringing...religion (a human invention) is NOT NECESSARY...and it looks from here like all it does is cause war, hatred, death and suffering, while feeding an entire class of parasites (the priests, imams, ministers, and the rest) who perpetuate the lie. Too bad Americans don't have the guts to elect atheists.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  2. JD

    What's scary is how many idiots would vote for this guy if he ran for president.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  3. boatvolt

    GOP is fielding a bumper crop of loonies this election cycle.
    "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

    March 29, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  4. Michael Wong

    Only Republicans would be stupid enough to not realize that "secular country dominated by radical Islamists" is a massive contradiction in terms. It's like saying that we might become a feminist country dominated by men. You can't say such a thing unless you're some sort of raving idiot who doesn't understand what you're saying.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  5. Cats Eye Montana

    As a democrat I have 10 things to say about Newt Gingrich (and Michelle Bachman and Mike Huckabee) running as the Republican presidential candidate . . . please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • C

      Or better yet....(gulp)....PALIN!!!! I second your nomination. Hey you think the GOP can just give us the money they were going to spend on a convention??? We have it all taken care of for them!!! lol

      March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  6. C

    KEEP THE FEAR ALIVE!!!!!
    I fear a country led by Newt!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  7. Troy

    Sorry, Newty, but your grandkids already live in a country with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American

    March 29, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  8. TheMovieFan

    Christian conservatives are insane.

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

    Isn't that statement contradictory?

    March 29, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  9. Anon

    God made me an atheist. How dare you question him Newt?

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

    I may be an athiest, but I've been married to the same woman for 26 years.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  11. Megan

    Go watch Religious. Read The God Delusion. A country who does good for good sake without god & religion & prejudice is just what we need in 2011. Young people...go watch/read what I mentioned!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  12. Joey M

    Newt is going to turn a flawed 2 party system into those who believe in GOD and those who don't. Good vs. Evil. If your good vote Newt and if you vote the other guy your going to hell you blaspheming atheist.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  13. Guest

    I have a problem with his first statement, “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,”. If we are an atheistic country then why are we worried about "radical Islamists" a lot of republicans make a big deal about Islam. So what? Its another religion... and if we do become an atheist country we wont have stupid battles over religion. Generally atheists don't give a care if someone talks about god and religion, more so they are tolerant of any religion and respect others. What's wrong with having respect towards one another and appreciated what makes America, America; it's our differences that brought us together.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  14. solotasq

    Not nearly as scary as a nation dominated by narrow-minded conformists determined to move society in a reverse direction. We went through the 50s-60s already; please don't make us do it again.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  15. Baruch

    Newt is a hyperbolic a$$ who just wants his shot at being "the man" because he is such a pitiful excuse for a human being.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  16. Boscobear

    Wonder if he fearas the US being lead by an adulterer?

    March 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  17. Donna

    Perhaps Mr. Gingrich, it would be a better America, if we didn't think in terms of any particular religion and more in terms of all religions. Instead of your negativity towards atheism and radical Islamist maybe you could open your tiny mind to all godisms and see the commonality of religion and unifying principals. Labeling and demonizing atheists and Muslims is convenient for you and yours and hampers a forward plan to fix what is really wrong in this country. We waste time, energy, emotion and money labeling and demonizing groups of people when we could be using these resources and vigor to energize our educational system, research and development to cure illnesses, establish public mass transportation and finally break our dependence on oil. But focusing there would not be politically expediate to you and your cohorts and ultimately people like you desire power and money over moral obligation to society on a whole. Rather follow an atheist than you.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  18. Margroks

    Gingrich is a moron AND a total hypocrite. First, there is no danger of the US becomming a "radical Islamist" nation. That's just plain stupid and it reveals his nasty hatred-filled side. Plus, this guy who wants to appear to be some kind of Christian proponent has had how many affairs? And one during th time he was castigating Bill Clinton for haivng an affair. Total hypocrite. Why would anyone listen to this guy?

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

      Plus, the fact that his statement is totally idiotic to begin with. He fears "an ATHEIST country dominated by ISLAMISTS." Muslims are not atheists. lol.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  19. Michael

    Americans should be far more concerned about the efforts of our own fundamentalist extremists like Annie and Renny here (or their buddy Gingrich) to turn this nation into a theocratic dictatorship, than about imaginary hordes of Muslim invaders with scimitars and turbans. American Muslims came here because they hated living in extremist theocracies! Gingrich obviously thinks all Americans are too stupid for words...he must be looking only at Hagee's zombie followers and their ilk.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  20. Steve

    Quick everyone, run for the hills! The world is coming to an end!! Vote for Newt, he's THE ONLY ONE who can help us!! The sky is falling, run to the safety of the kind, caring, concerned and responsible GOP!!!! AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:58 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.