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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. Frank

    Newt is a disgrace to his adopted Catholic religion. Obviously, he knows nothing about Catholicism or any other genuine Christian religion, and certainly nothing about the teachings of Jesus Christ. He is a hypocrite and a very troubled and troubling human being.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  2. Matt

    Gingrich is an A$s. First of all, no Atheist is a Muslim (or any other denomination!). Secondly, a RATIONAL Atheist nation would easy out compete any country in science, tech, and all things logical. A Christian country would rely on God to solve all problems. Not exactly my picture of America!!

    Gingrich, STFU and get your facts straight! You are an embarrassment to America!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  3. Bravin Neff

    I'm first in line for an atheist America.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Seems to me that given his illustrious personal life the Newt needs to be neutered!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Ray in MA

    I look forward to the day that America is a secular atheist country.

    Lots of nasty problems will be solved and done with.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  6. Jon

    Run for the hills! The sky is falling! How truly pathetic. I fear people like Newt more than I fear atheists. We have only to look at what has already happened under Bush to get an idea of what the U.S. would look like under Gingrich.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  7. Jason

    Which is it Newt? Atheist or Radical Islamic? I understand that you hate both, but they're mutually exclusive.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Jon

      It's red meat for his intended audience either way.

      March 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  8. Lisa Mitchell

    Well here is the 2nd "potential" GOP candidate who has sealed his fate today. Tsk.....tsk......Obama has got 2012 covered! Thanks Newt, Cain, Palin, Bachman, and all your narrow minded little creeper folowers! Oh ya, and Trump, puuuuulease!!! His own banckruptcy history confirms his inability to run his own check book, never mind Americas! This is CLASSIC!!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Another Larry

      Romney or Huckabee will probably end up being the nominee.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  9. Linda Stafford

    I thought the USA is a democratic nation where there is freedom of religion–whether it be an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist and so on. With people who think like Newt running for president, our nation would be moving toward Fascism–I believe it already is. A scary thought!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  10. musings

    A secular atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? What kind of a dumb audience does he have there? Do they imagine that Islam is a nation of atheists, do they think that religion always comes to fill the vacuum when there is atheism? Does he believe – or more to the point, does he think his audience believes – that the US is terribly lacking in religion compared to France, England, Germany or the Netherlands? How about Scandinavia? Italy? I don't know – it seems the US is the most into going to church this side of the Vatican. But maybe Hagee's people think the Pope is not religious. This garbage thinking is really just playing on prejudices. It isn't about truth, it's about power and how to gain it through fear-mongering. So far that seems to work in the slave states.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      'Slave states'? Hey name-calling is name-calling. Not everyone in the south is brainless fascist enough to eat this crap up!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • musings

      I meant of course that Gingrich in his contradictory phrase was treating the "religion of Islam" as atheistic, which it absolutely is not. Talk about unshakeable faith – not necessarily a good thing.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  11. Michael Daily

    The uselessness of his message is clear in its self-contradiciton : secular country and domination by radical Islamists are two very different outcomes !

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  12. Josh

    How wouold the country be atheist if it was controlled by Muslims? That makes no sense.

    And more importantly, how would that be worse than our country currently controlled by Christians?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Dean

    As he should... in an 'atheist country' lying hypocrites like him would never get elected and allowed to live off of tax payers money without contributing to society...

    March 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  14. shinden

    It is best to use Newt's own words against him.

    "they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists "

    Lets see secular athiest and radical islamist. You can't have a radical Islamist running a secular athiest country. If a radical Islamist was running the country it would be an Islamist state. Two totally different animals. A little spotlight on the facts sees to make Newt appear rather stupid.

    Newt likes to fear monger in the hope of getting the less than educated vote.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I can see how this might make sense if one is of a certain political persuasion... An atheistic country that doesn't pay attention to those that are in power, that power base having switched from radical Christians to radical Muslims...

      March 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  15. Sam

    That's not even rhetoric, it just doesn't make sense.
    "Radical Islamists" are by definition not "secular atheists" because they preclude each other.
    How does he get away with saying stuff like this? I'm not saying the media coverage on Palin's gaffes is unfair, but this is crazier than a lot of the stuff she says nowadays.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • oh, brother!

      I guess the comparison b/w Newt and Palin is justified. So, let's see – Palin sold a lot of nutty talk , what is Gingrich to do? – Raise(lower) the bar on talk!!! Bring on the loonney toon election!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  16. Mattski

    These Republicans are putting their feet in their mouths at a fast pace. i GUESS THEY think moderate conservatives are a safe base and they can't be chased away. Don't count on it. Cain doesn't want Muslims anywhere near him, Trump doubts Obama is an American citizen because he can't find a doctor or nurse who remembers Obama's birth, but when the Governor of Hawaii claims to remember Obama's birth, Trump wants to have him "investigated". And Newt, as whacked out as he is, he comes in third place on the whack-o-meter thanks to his counterparts Trump and Cain.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  17. Nadine

    Hahahahahahahahahahha - if they made a movie this moron saying this, no one would be believe it!! There are actually stupid hicks out there who buy this. I spluttered with laughter when I saw this! And btw - gingrich is one atheistic dude – you better believe it - this is aimed right at that pea-sized gland between the eyes of people dumb enough to listen to him. What guff!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Mike Hunt

      What about Gingrich having converted to Catholicism 2 years ago makes you think he's an atheist?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Another Larry

      Mike Hunt: What about his behavior makes you believe he's a Christian?

      March 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Russ139

      He became a Catholic, so he could marry one.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  18. JohnRJ08

    Newt Gingrich, in his quest for political redemption and power, is willing to convert this country into a theocracy that would be as repressive and backward as the Islamic republics he despises so much. I don't think Gingrich has a genuine belief system of his own, even though he's trying to represent himself as a Christian. I think he's just pandering to the evangelical right, trying to convince those religious fanatics that he's one of them.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  19. WOBH

    In 1797 John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli which said:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    I think John Adams knows better than Newt what the Founding Fathers intended.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  20. Mo

    Newt is a hypocritical nut. I want to see all organized religion go away....it spawns people like Newt. This country was based on religeous freedom. Is Newt a Quaker who believes in witches? Our founding ancestors from England did. Christianity is a religion forced upon people through crusades and torture.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
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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.