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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. Tom Leagre

    Who cares what this lieing, thieving, charlatan does anyway!! He doesn't have any solution to anything unless he gets more money and tells more lies!!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  2. yalesouth

    Why wont he get the message. I mean he has had his time in the sun, failed, get the message and go retire or have fun looking for his next mistress.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  3. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Radical Isamists will dominate our atheist nation? They can't have quoted Gingrich right on that. He isn't stupid, so it would almost imply he is just pandering to bigoted Christians. Would Newt pander to bigoted Christians?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  4. jimbo jones

    ALL of this is not a religion vs non-religion argument,

    I would say its education and critical thinking, and even trying to see the other peoples point of view vs well not doing that.

    Many Educated people are religious, many are atheist, many are something in between.

    Saying "im right and your wrong because i have faith" is not going to convince an atheist unless God comes down and shows up. (not a good argument)
    Saying "im right and your wrong cause i used reason and my mind and logic" wont convince a religions person unless you have some evidence (also not a good argument because many things have seemed like the right thing to do based on a persons mind using 'logic' but are not)

    Basically there are lots of crazy people, I am religious but that does not mean i think atheist people are evil or even wrong, it is what a person has chosen for themselves based on what they think is best for themselves.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  5. BR

    1700 plus responses so I'm sure this isn't original, but hello!!! a-th@ist country dominated by Is |am extremists??? Gingrich is both an ox and a moron.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  6. RgTex

    Yeah Gingrich.

    Did you also tell that church that you had an affair while your wife was dying of cancer.

    You hypocritical old fool! It is a wonder, that there are still some disillusioned Americans who pay attention to what you say, and some media that covers you.

    Your bids for presidential runs are a joke, you probably do it because there is good money in running and losing, and signing book deals.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  7. Dave From Philly

    I don't know who is more wrong. Newt going to Hagee's church or Hagee for invited Newt to his church. Funny how Rev. Wright is seen as being hateful, but Rev. Hagee is not.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  8. blf83

    This hypocritical, over-fed philanderer is concerned about atheism?! His actions, including cozying up to an equally hypocritical, over-fed John Hagee is disgusting. Any thinking person should demand that no religion – Christianity, Islam, or atheism should be involved in politics.

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

    "Their dedication to serve is inspirational.” Serve? Serve who? Themselves, that's who. All these Megachurch leaders are materialistic charlatains who prey on the weak-minded. Newt, you better shut-up, fat boy. No one want's your right wing krap ruling our country. Government and religion do not mix, and this is why.

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

    I'm still confused as to Newt's point, for it would not be an atheist country if overrun by Islamists, as Islam is, in fact, a religion.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  11. Derock

    Vote for Newt or all your children will become God hating Athiest Muslims that want to destroy American!!!!!!! Yeah if you are going to use fear with no evidence to convince people to vote for you, you might not want your statement to be an oxymoron.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  12. Lifewhispers

    I welcome Newt Gingrich's bid for the Presidency. Hopefully, the ill-conceived effort will bankrupt him and his campaign, before he loses in disgrace to a reasonable candidate. I'm hoping that he blows at least a billion dollars before he goes down in flames.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  13. Maestro Geek

    quote: "...a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists..."
    atheist (noun): on who believes that there is no deity

    Am I the only one that sees the problem here? It may not be a christian religion, but Islam is one that believes in a deity. Conservatives need to stop talking until they have some one with an IQ over room temperature review their remarks.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  14. Elga

    Huh? A secular-atheist-Radical Islamist run America? Wow. At least he knows how to pander to his audience.
    Clearly, being a Christian has provided a GREAT moral compass for Newt. You have to love a guy who isn't afraid to play on the irrational fears of his political base. I was also pleased to note that, as an atheist, I am apparently not a real American. Or at least I don't understand what it is to be an American...funny, I thought this was a Republic, not a theocracy.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. John

    Well since religion in general, and Christianity in particular, had it shot at fixing the US for over 100 years and has failed miserably maybe it's time to try something else. Without the preachers demanding we follow the laws of beings that only they can see, the people we put into office might be inclined to do real work instead of worrying about who is sleeping with who. We might ever get lucky enough to elect some people who actually accept responsibility for their actions and decisions instead of hoping that some higher being will fix things.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  16. Mao

    The statistics are flawed anyway (and it's interesting how quickly atheists will jump on anything flawed that supports their position as I've noticed from certain people's comments).
    Take a look at the National Post and what Reginald Bibby had to say.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  17. abd

    It is very interesting that 75% of the americans are christian while there is 1% of americans are Muslims, yet the christians are so scared that this country will be dominated by muslims or aithiests. This shows how strong islam is, and how the christians have no faith in their religion.... I don't blame them

    March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  18. kso

    Freedom and equality in America. Yeah... only if you're white, straight, christian republican. everyone else.

    F%$# newt

    March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  19. TG

    I suppose he's worried that without religion, we might all cheat on our wives while they have cancer – and divorce them after they find out about the cheating – oh wait – Newt's done that already.

    Why don't those hypocrites shut up when they've been caught out? Because they have no shame. They'll say anything to get elected.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  20. ellid

    First, the idea of an atheistic society dominated by religious fanatics is ludicrous.

    Second, John Hagee has repeatedly allied himself with the radical Christian Reconstructionist movement, which seeks to replace the American system of government with its own warped interpretation of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. *That* is much more frightening, and much closer to reality, than "Islamist radicals" taking over an allegedly non-religious society.

    Third, Newt Gingrich is an idiot.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:16 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.