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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. Truefax

    Here's a newsflah You can't be 'dominated by radical Islamists' and an 'atheist country' at the same time, kind of mutually exclusive. This monkey is just fear mongering the bible thumpers, it was the gay married terrorists last time this go around the red meat issue seems to be atheist muslim takeover.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  2. Richard

    What a dangerous man. He will say anything to get a headline on his goal to be elected. He is not a religious man. He is an adultorous pig.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  3. AndThenThereWasME

    m... 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 9:21 am |
  4. Sam from CT

    We'll be better off. If you pay attention at all, you'll notice athiests aren't trying to kill anyone or force anyone to abide by their beliefs. It's the religious folks – almost doesn't matter what religion. Tthey are the ones that want to fight and kill and force people to do things they don't want to do. That's why religion is dying.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  5. elflander

    "Do you know how a male newt proposes, Bertie? He just stands in front of the female newt vibrating his tail and bending his body in a semi-circle." –Gussie Fink-Nottle

    March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  6. Another inclusive republican

    Once again, the republican party shows how non-inclusive they are. It is okay to exclude legislation for Americans? Isn't that why they voted for tax cuts for the richest, against healthcare for Americans, etc. Out of touch again!!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  7. John

    Newt, Sara, Michelle and the rest of the Rethug's never stop scaring the sheep. Fear of the future. We should fear they future if its created by Republican policy.

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

    Uhh Newt, please consult your pocket reference book. Atheists do not exactly embrace religion of any kind – let alone radical versions. Are you trying to prove you are in fact dumber than Sarah Palin?

    As someone not loyal to any political party I would be thrilled if the Republican party could produce a respectable, intelligent candidate who would appreciate the fact that our government is supposed to be secular. At this point, the Republican party could pull a bum off the street, dress him up in a suit and he would seriously outshine these neanderthals.

    You know what I'm afraid of? That our country's collective intelligence is deteriorating so quickly that this cretin is actually an adequate representation of our society.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Erik J

      Wow, love this statement, you are completely correct in every word spoken here. It's truly terrifying to see someone who is supposed to garner some sort of Spirit of our Nation speak with such ignorance. Not only does his statement of being afraid of a "Secular Athiest nation run by Radical Islamists" make no sense (oxymoron much), but it plays into the widespread ignorant fears of islam currently abound, and further desensitizes relations with Athiests who are trying to make headway into the mainstream finally.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  9. ohtheoldgeezer

    Ok, so let me get this straight? By running for president he will change the American mindset and belief to Christian and somehow convince all Atheists and radical Islamists that they're incorrect? Sounds like a "hunter" to me!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  10. EddyL

    This guy is just plain NUTS.

    Right from the getgo the REPUKES start in with this inflammatory fear-mongering.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  11. Gingeet

    Yeah Newt, if the country was a secular atheist nation the greater population of the country would be highly educated and posses critical thinking skills. Idiots like you would never even be allowed to hold office let alone be the "Fry" guy at a burger joint.

    We need to require that all of those who hold office or want to must pass I.Q. tests, psychological evaluations, posses advanced scientific knowledge and have a good strong understanding of history.
    Enough of these nut cases running for office!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  12. doug

    I have to admit that Gingrich's fear of atheists is fair, since I'm equally afraid of him!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  13. RWESTUPID

    Talk about a "Confederacy of Dunces"! Run for President Newt and please choose Sara (c**t) Palin as a running mate!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  14. dirtguy

    Newt gives the US much more to fear than any atheist ever could.!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  15. moscon

    Gingrich hypocresy... hypocresy... hypocresy... Are we going to be atheist and moslem at the same time? If we are not Christian then it really doesn't matter what label you put on us? Should I rather by Catholic and have your family morals? Hypocrit! I hope noone is listening to you!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  16. asgardshill

    If Newt Gingrich wants America to be full of good Christian brothers just like himself, who screw around on their wives then abandon them when they become deathly ill, put me down with the athiests and radical Islamists.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • bam

      the christian taliban way of life is the only way or u will be cast aside trampled and buried via peace and luv

      March 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  17. Ron K

    Newt has turned into a nutcase. The thought that he was once a professor doubtless persuades him that he not only has a lock on secular truth, but having screwed around because of his patriotism he has earned the kind of special redemption that allows him to pontificate endlessly. I can't wait to see him run for President. Imagine the fun of watching him, Huck, Bachmann and the Donald on the same stage, each with God in their pockets. Would turn anything into an atheist!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  18. Wes

    Ok Newt has lost it. first, if he took time to think about what he said, he wouldn't of said it. A Secular means we are officially neutral in matters of religion(freedom of religion for anyone). And if he also concerned about being atheist, we can never be taken over by islamic radical relgion, get it. If we are going to be also atheist, than we could never be islamic because islam is a relgion, get it? So secualr atheist does not go together with islamic religion. You have a contradiction in your statement and just because you combine 3 words does not mean they make sense. One can not be secular atheist islamic country, it just doesn't jive. One can be atheist nation or even a secular nation or even islamic nation but one can't be all three. If I have to expalin it further than you are beyond help.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Scott in Charlotte

      Exactly...way to whip up the Religious Right Newt! Lets scare the Hell out of them so they vote for you. Also how big a check did Hagee right you? Please go back to wherever you were before you decided to be a politician again.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • chris24

      okay. now you are using logic to define the illogical. that never works.
      this moron would say anything to get in front of the far-right, psycho-voter.

      he'll get about 2% of the vote, then write more books. (and get another divorce,
      find another bleached out, stepford wife and move on to pill-popping in
      his retirement)

      March 29, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  19. Chris

    Great, all we need is Someone in office who preaches from the bible every week. He scares me more than any of the horrors he preaches about.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  20. cbcard

    Ah, so the jerk who cheated on his wife while she was in the hospital now has religion. Yeah, sure he does!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • bam

      of course that is how religion works. point fingers at non believers while u do the deeds....

      it is beyond time to get rid of this 2000+ year old way to control the ignorant people in society, via FEAR and DAMNATION.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Rick

      Yeah for an atheist country!! country that doesn't jail black guys just because they aren't white, that won't harass hispanics in Arixzona because they aren't white, won't bomb muslim countries because they aren't white, won't cut funding on science (which will lead to more cures) won't cut funding on the arts, won't cut funding on public radio and tv, won't cut funding on education, WILL cut funding on defense, WILL provide funding on national healthcare, WILL take care of our elderly,

      So basically, a non christian, non redneck, non religious, non repuiblican country ran by people who are educated, rational and non-violent? SIGN ME UP!!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Renny

      @Rick, you sound like a racist black man.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:27 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.