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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. realitybites

    Alll aboard, the Jesus Freak nutjob express!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Newt, I have not one shred of respect for so called good hypocrite Christians who can't keep their jimmys in thier pants and then scream about other peoples religiious beliefs. When you stooop low you really do. Didn't think you STILL had it in ya. Pandering to the fear of stary eyed brain washed people to get their vote is....well.....like McCain ruining his good reputation and political credibility on Sarah Palin. Do you really think most people care about a washed up old has been pervert parading as a good Christian Crusader? Get your head checked. Could be Alzheimers Hope you healthcare covers it.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  2. Ed

    A nation with a majority of secular humanists is something to aspire to, not fear. When the masses bow to reason rather than religion, how could any radicial agenda make headway?

    March 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  3. RB

    Ok – if we were an Atheist country – there would be no room for Islam either... My fear is any one in politics who puts "religion" of any kind on their pulpit – how is that any different than the "crazies" running the Middle East? Any religion is too much and should be pushed as far from politics as is possible – I fear the day that a candidate like this wins anything.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  4. MikeMazzla

    I wish whoever runs against him actually states what the forefathers really thought about religion and the seperation of church and state because Newt obviously doesnt

    March 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  5. citizenUSA

    Newt's fears are un-founded. First, even though a person may be an athiest, at least that's one thing you don't have to worry about that person killing you over. Second, I don't live here because I can follow whatever religion I want. I'm in the USA by virtue of birth. My ancestors came from Poland and registered at Ellis Island to become legal citizens. So with my life, I'm willing to do whatever to ensure that no radical islamists take control of anything here, (and if Newt thinks that's going to happen I guess he he feels there's nothing HE can do about it so why vote for him?) But since I can't do it all alone I hope there are many out there who share the same feelings including non-radical Islamists.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  6. mattgordonmd

    Sounds like Gingrich and other "potential" candidates are running on the fear of Islamists for 2012. Pathetic charlatans pandering to the radical religionists. Too bad none of the pool of candidates has the integrity to address valid issues such as the economy, taxes, education.

    Bring back the lions.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  7. awaysaway

    Funniest thing I have read in a while. Atheist and Islamic at the same time. Good one Newt.

    His campaign formula consists of one part fear, one part bigotry, one part ignorance and one part jingoism. And since this is Newt we get it served up with a side of extra rich personal hypocrisy.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  8. Larry L

    Most of the world's problems are caused by religion. Just look at the responses from the faithful – many filled with fear and hate. It's a shame that Newt can energize people with his nonsense. He is such a little slime ball.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Lisa2204

      Amen to that! I wish organized religion would go away.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  9. EMERSE

    Here we go again!! We keep on digging a deeper hole with the Islamic nation with idiots like Newt opening their trap! I love the way these guys running for president really make it sound like they actually care! And people of our country really buy into all of it? Why even bother voting? Who ever is elected, our country will continue to be thae same. People act like we are going to elect this amazing man as president and he is going to change the counrty! LOL People crak me up!!!!! You vote, you get jury duty and you set yourself up for the fall. Ill pass.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  10. madmatt

    And I fear a country run by hypocritical lying hateful christians.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  11. Bob S In Austin

    I'm not in any way in locked step with Newt's beliefs. I also feel that he has failed to live up to some of his own ideals, which is something I and most others on this board have in common. None of us are perfect.
    I do admire his political wisdom, even though I don't agree with his views on many matters. He is a very smart and capable man who orchestrated a political movement that still resonates today . But I don't think he's electable. Too many on the right will fault him for his sins, and too many on the left will ridicule him for his hypocrisies

    March 29, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  12. billp

    In a way I admire Gingrinch's breathtaking degree of moral hypocrisy.

    "Don't tell me what you believe. I'll observe how you behave and I will make my own determination." – Alex Trebek

    March 29, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  13. Zeppelin

    This proves you mostly don't listen to people named "Newt". Mostly...

    Oh, and what's this business about an "atheist" country, dominated by "Islamists"? Does not compute.

    Mostly...

    March 29, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Mikey B

      Awesome Aliens reference, bro!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  14. Renny

    An observation about atheists: I spent 20 months in Iraq, I have never seen an "atheist" remain an "atheist" while he is being shot at, not one time. Funny how when their life is in danger the first thing "atheists" do is call on "God" for protection or to use "God" to curse the enemy. There is a reason for the saying, "There are no athiests in foxholes."

    March 29, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • sleepytime

      Desperate people in stressful situations say and do dumb things. What's your point?

      March 29, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • MapDark

      Renny , you're an idiot.

      So you know each and every atheist on the army roster?

      That whole "no ateists in foxholes" thing is offensive at best and the most retarded falacy at worst

      March 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Remember Pat Tillman?

      March 29, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • jeremy

      People also say "s**t" in such situations.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Monk

      Wow, Renny tends to get all the narrow/closed minded individuals all wound up.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Coyltonian

      Renny, even if your pathetic litlle anecdote were true, that is an argument against foxholes and not against athiests.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Renny

      I love how people choose the oddest things to be offended about, rather than the things they should take offense to.
      There are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your small minded philosophies.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'There is a reason for the saying, "There are no athiests in foxholes."'
      Yeah because its BS but christians want to use it as fact.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'There are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your small minded philosophies.'

      And the quote that was paraphrasing was talking about accepting the idea of talking ghosts so I will assume your philosophy is accepting of that notion too?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  15. kathleen

    The man is a buffoon! Having said that I am not a fan of Islam and do not think that we can live side by side. Islam is dangerous period to women.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • jhutch42

      You better move quickly because there are muslims in your neighborhood already.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • madmatt

      Yes and the GOP treats women so well...what a joke, they would treat you the same as the taliban treats their women.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  16. Starhopper

    OK – which will it be Newt? A secular atheist country or a Radical Isamist country – it can't be both !

    March 29, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  17. Bhavin

    GOD SAVE USA FROM IDIOTS LIKE GINGRICH.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Pat in IL

      Agree. And what is it about joining the Catholic church to prove his patriotism??? That's just dumb.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  18. ELH

    As I have pointed out every time I get a chance, a newt is a slimy lizard-like aquatic reptile.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  19. mixbee

    How stupid is Newt when he fears atheists that are radical Islamists? Doesn't he know that Islam is a religion and atheism is the exact opposite? This guy amazes me with his hypocrisy. I'm an atheist and at least I've never cheated on my husband and when he was extremely ill, I didn't serve him with divorce papers. What a creep.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • oinonio

      He's not stupid, he's talking to his base. The folks that believe a secular atheist nation will be dominated by "radical islamists" surely are the same lot that equate communism to fascism; in short, the dimmer bulbs in the marquee.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  20. Bruce

    I fear a country dominated and ruled by Conservative Christians.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Gary

      Amen!!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Naked Joe

      Got that right!!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • kritterkat

      My thoughts exactly. Of course, these kinds of people don't realize that there is a middle ground of people with personal spirituality that don't buy in to the mega religions that are tearing this world apart.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • TA

      Seriously.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Shane Botwin

      Hallelujah!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Confused

      How misguided.... America is a country of religious freedome–not religeous focus.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:43 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.