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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. Vince

    Is he serious? An atheist country dominated by radical islamists? As a professor, shouldn't he at least look up the words in the dictionary before he uses them? Gingrich used to have some interesting ideas, but lately he seems to be taking a page from Sarah Palin playbook, and just saying things that sound scary, whether they make any sense or not.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  2. Bill McWIlliams

    "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists" – so you're afraid of atheist Islamists?!? Somebody needs to sit down and have a talk with Newt. Preferably with words less than 3 syllables. Don't worry, Newt – like you, Americans are too stupid to become atheists.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  3. dabble

    I'd DEFINITELY prefer an atheist US to a gingrich US

    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  4. Minister of Mow

    Not one shard of pottery, remarkable. I understand that the tribes of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years in the same pair of shoes. Did these archaeologists find any shoes?

    March 29, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  5. Marc J

    Who is Gingrich? Never heard of him. I guess he spends to much time in church!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  6. mrSniffy

    Secular atheist radical islamists? What an idiot. He's like the dillweeds that call atheists Satanic. IF you're islamic or worship Satan, you're not an atheist. You're a Muslim or a Satanist.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  7. seankerwin

    So, radical Islamists are Atheists, huh? Why not throw neo-pagan and devil worshiper in there too... I mean its all the same thing right? You are either with the Powerhouse Church of the Presumptuous Assumption of the Blinding Light or you are against it.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • doc

      kudos for the firesign reference...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  8. Founding Father

    Whatever happened to separation of Church and State??

    March 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  9. xx

    Propaganda lies playing on the simple minds of religiously fanatic Americans, trumping up no doubt a preemptive strike on Iran and separating religious ideologies further than we already are. Talk such as this are equally paranoid as Ahmadinejad's.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  10. William Demuth

    I miss the 60's when the news was filled with one extremist killing another.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • doc

      i suspect you'll be feeling very nostalgic sooner than you think.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  11. GOP hypocrisy

    Right! Christian like Gingrich who cheats on his wife and has multiple affairs...I'll take atheism over this any time of the day.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  12. Michael from Boston

    I want someone who will serve as our leader, not someone who has shown throughout his life, that he only serves himself.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  13. Hello

    Newt is counting on ignorance and hate, and he is correct. Americans are as dumb as rocks. Americans elect people like Bush and Palin. Now the so called smart ones [liberals] won't admit that Obama is an amoral war monger. Yep dumb as rocks.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  14. Madge

    Gingrich is the Republican gift to the Democrats. Palin, Huckabee, Romney, doesn't matter. Obama's gonna hit another landslide!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  15. Barking Alien

    If it looks looks like a toad, sounds like a toad, then it is a toad. Kissing him is not going to turn him into a prince.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  16. Diane

    One again Newt has shown what an ignorant and bigoted person he is. How can a country be athiest if it ruled by muslims? The founding fathers wanted a separation of church and state. All one needs to do is look at the middle east to see what countries that are run by relegion come to. Everyone should be afraid of these types of candidates and the Tea Party in paticular. They prey on the fears of people who are under educated and have no real understanding of what the party is trying to accomplish. If you think this comment is unfair just remember what that woman from Alaska(I refuse to say her name) said about what she called overeducated people. I was unaware that being educated was a detriment to our country. It is obvious that the Republican party wants this country to be uneducated since the first thing they want to do is take away from education instead of requiring the rich to pay there fair share to keep social programs running in this country.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  17. JAMES DARNLEY

    i think it;s obvious gingrich would make a lousy president because he is to religious.he would not be able to make the distinction between seperation of church and state. his decisions would be bias and based on relgion not what is best for the country.personally i think we need an atheist president who can make choices and decsions based on whats best for the country and the country alone.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • chef dugan

      I'd mch rather have an athiest US than a Christian US.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  18. jim

    Well, we know now that when Newt gets on his knees – it's not for praying, it's to turn a quick trick for some votes.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  19. Alex

    I don't think he understands the idea of mutual exclusivity. If it's a country dominated by radical Islam, it cannot be atheist. Atheism does not mean a lack of belief in the Christian interpretation of God. It means a lack of belief in any God, Goddess, or pantheon thereof in any faith, religion, or cult (that last part may be redundant).

    This public information announcement was brought to you by a proud godless heathen. Pray or not, you're still worm food!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Cliff

      Right On Mate:
      If the former Speaker of the House does not really know how incompatible Islam is with atheism then he is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is or he is basing his politicing on fear. Either way he is pandering to a base consisting of people who say the President was raised in Kenya and that the battle of Lexington& Concord was fought in New Hampshire Next up: a takeover of the Government by radical Quakers.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  20. John Mac

    No need to worry, that white haired GUY sitting on a cloud in the sky, who looks down on the bombing of little children, old people rotting of cancer, people being tortured and religious leaders and politicians speaking in HIS name among other things, he won't let the good old US down, would he?
    Get over it, listen to Steven Hawking, HE doesn't exist. Just an easy excuse for man immortality and immorality.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • RightasRain

      Love it!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • AndThenThereWasME

      Um... so which is it? "a secular atheist country" or "one dominated by radical Islamists"? Because those are two completely opposite things. Just sayin'

      More importantly radical Islamists are bad because their Islamists, they're bad because they're radical, and contrary to popular belief that can apply to anyone who believe in anything. Newt Gingrich for example...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:18 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.