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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. boris

    It doesnt matter if we're atheist or catholic or jewish...MUSLIMS ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD...loook at europe...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  2. Dan Cleveland

    yes...fear the atheist......I'd rather have someone running the show who believes in all these fairy tales....angels, virgin births...an invisible man who lives in the clouds and keeps score......yes sir...stay away from those crazy non believers.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  3. Really?

    Let me try this again, for those of you that do not understand this...
    Islam is one of 3 branches of the known branches of what are known as the "book" religions. Judaism began it all, but Jews don't recognize Jesus as God's. Some see Jesus as a prophet, others do not depending on your chosen Judaic faction. Christians came along next and believe most of what Jews believe, except for the whole Christ Lord and Savior thing which is sen by Jews as BS. About 500 years or so later comes Islam. Islam recognizes Muhammad as a prophet as well as Jesus and all Jewish prophets. In it's time, much like the predecessor religions, Muhammad was not recognized by Christianity or Judaism and conflicts ensued between all 3. All 3 religions believe in the same god more or less. Last but not least, Atheists deny all above religions as well as any other that specifies the existence of one or more deities. Most Atheists tend to have a Darwinist view which is also a non-religious belief, though they are certainly not limited to that. This is a reviled way of thinking by all 3 factions of the book religion.

    This being said...
    It is impossible to make the claim that Islam could ever run a country of secular atheists. It makes no sense and unless Islam employs mind control tactics over Atheists, this entire argument has no basis.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Renny

      You are correct, Islam would not run a country of Atheists, once their population was the majority and they ran things, the muslims would kill all the atheists.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  4. Call me Steve

    Ok so what are you going to do about it? Force people to go to church? People will do what they want and no one under the age of 30 wants to be a boring conservative driving a buick to church on sunday.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  5. DrPete

    I'm still trying to figure out how Islamism, by definition a theistic ideology, would thrive in an atheist country. The fact that there are people who don't instantly identify the absurdity in this statement is evidence of the failure of our nation to enlighten our citizens.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  6. Keven

    Wow, talk about the " do what I saw not what I do" mentality.
    Isn't this the same guy who cheated on his wife and he's preaching religion?
    Even for a Republican, that's such an obvious lie.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  7. Celtic-Mom

    Newt ... Jesus sees your wicked, power-mongering heart and has JUDGED. You are the DEMON.

    America will Judge as well. Fake-Christian GOP America won't listen to your LIES, HATE, FEAR-mongering any more!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  8. noel

    take your meds and crawl back under your rock renny...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  9. Rowell

    Quote: “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists"

    Wait, what? How in the world is Gingrich associating Atheism (the lack in belief in God) with Islam (the belief in a God)? An atheist country would have NO religion. Hello! This is simply Newt catering to the christian base in this country, feeding them fear that the radical islamists will take over unless he's elected. The lows this creep will stoop to in order to be viewed as a "valid" candidate are amazing.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • RobA

      It's almost funny, isn't it, how he contradicts himself in his haste to demonize the Democrats?

      I almost expect him to say that "Hitler is conspiring with the Legion of Doom to assassinate Jesus, and Darth Vader is selling yellowcake Uranium to unwed teenage mothers!"

      March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  10. mouse

    And of course they can't get around the squabbling amonst themselves. How can a divine book be interpreted so many ways? It's like going to Lubby's – you get to pick and chose what suites your tastes – to me that smacks of human written not divine!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  11. joel

    Newt's scare tactics won't work on athiests, people of common sense who do not need 3,000 year old fairy-tales to keep them from bombing doctor offices or trade centers. Clearly he is pandering to the closed-minded religious majority.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  12. DrPete

    I would LOVE to see a country led by ethics and morality rather than religion. Good can (and does) exist without a belief in ficticious beings in the sky and eternal damnation of people we don't agree with.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Gloria

      Dr. Pete

      Come on now, let us have our peace. Let us feel good as long as we are not hurting anyone. There is value in having good imaginary friends. People join each others on social media daily. Is there ever a better example of imaginary friendship and connection than that?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  13. Celtic-Mom

    the GOP Wolve are Fake-Christian Adulterers ... stoking FEAR and HATE, which are the tools of the Devil and the Nazis, Taliban and Gadhaffy.

    America rejects these Republican Demons that have NO FAITH. Liars, Terrorists, be gone.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  14. LadyAnon

    I have my spiritual beliefs, but don't practice them in a group or church as I don't feel that I need the affirmation of a spiritual 'leader' or group of others to confirm the validity of my beliefs.

    I'm certain that there are others of various faiths (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Wicca, Other) that share these sentiments.

    What I would like to see are more people with these sentiments stand up and tell these over-zealous pulpit pounding politicians to step away from those preaching pulpits and go back to REAL business of politics, which is supposed to be running this country.

    They have gotten SO far away from the 'Separation of Church and State' that it's truly frightening. The far right GOP is now cramming THEIR version of Christianity into every angle of their political campaigns. With their known twisted spin on things at times, I don't understand how even Christians could be OK with this.

    This is not necessarily a 'Christian' country. It's a country that recognizes freedom of religion and that includes No religion. Why should our politicians be allowed to cram this down our throats in a country that is supposed to recognize a 'Separation of Church and State'.

    If the GOP can have a 'Tea Party' group with Christian Fundamentalists, can Independents and Democrats have a S.O.C.S. Group comprised of people of various faiths as well as No faith to say No to the Tea Party? Hmmm....Something to work on perhaps.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  15. Eeek

    Hitler and Caligula don't have anything on Newt.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • RobA

      That's a bit much, really (Godwin's law, BTW).

      But he is pandering to the people who could be the next Hitler or Caligula...that's the problem with vicious partisan diatribes, the inspire only the sickest and most demented partisans.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  16. Bman

    This Xenophobic diatribe by a formerly elected official and it's unambiguous acceptance in a church show that we have indeed forgotten what it means to be American.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  17. shanbaum

    Thank you, Newt; upon reading that America would become an atheist country dominated by religious fanatics, I immediately achieved satori.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Dan

      That was the best comment I've read in years. Apparently the sound of one hand clapping is.......Newt Gingrich.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  18. ryan

    god is imaginary, and gingrich is clearly an idiot.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  19. RobA

    Wow, Newt sure knows his fearmongery doesn't he? I remember when at least some effort was made to hide the fact that all people like him are doing is pandering to the belligerently ignorant.

    What's next? Westboro Baptists endorse him as their candidate of choice?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  20. 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 10:10 am |
    • RobA

      The idea that heaven and earth are the only considerations is one of those small-minded philosophies. And they don't get any more small-minded than scaremongering a bunch of religious bigots to get votes.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Newt is BS

      Newt, working on your 4th wife yet, w a n k e r? :)

      March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Renny

      @RobA, dude, get a grip, education, or whatever, "heaven" or "heavens" in that context means the universe, what you see when you look up at night, not the religious "heaven." Try reading some Shakespear rather than showing your lack of education.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:24 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.