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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 • Faith Now • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Texas

soundoff (2,228 Responses)
  1. telloh

    How many more wives is this fine Christian going to divorce?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Mark

    This is an incomprehensible statement – he fears a "secular, atheist country, one potentially dominated by radical Islamists"? Is Newt not aware that these are two diametrically opposed positions? Secular and atheist are positions very, very far removed from radical Islam. This is nothing more than Gingrich pandering to the stereotypes and prejudices of Hagee's congregation and trying to kill two birds with one stone. I too would fear a religious culture dominated by radical Islam. I would fear a religious culture dominated by any religion for that matter. But I have no fear about moving toward a secular culture – one in which freedom of religion exists but the governance of the state and nation are free and seperate from it's influence.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  3. noel

    that would be you are or you're mindy... pretty telling dear...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists” is an oxymoron. Seeing as it is Newt Gingrich, I will leave out the oxy.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  5. Jack

    This is some of the stupidest remarks by Newt I've heard yet. This IS a secular country. Secular and atheism aren't the same thing. There is, and always will be, freedome of religion. Now look what he says. He contradicts himself. He says he fears a secular atheistic society ruled by islamists. What? Jost that ole time fear mongering. Get everyone scared of "them" (whoever "they" are). "vote for me or 'they' will take over."

    March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  6. mark

    Why do I think Gingrich might be a child molester? Someone needs to keep an eye on him...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  7. Richard

    Newt never understood that moral and ethical have nothing to do with what religious beliefs one professes to hold or not hold. His lack of ethics and morality allowed him to justify leaving a wife of many years while she coped with cancer for his mistress and later leaving his mistress/wife for a new younger version of the same. God forbid we become as a nation what Newt Gingrich is as a person.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  8. Leonid Brezhnev

    Newt is an idiot. Employing scare tactics and pandering to the audience.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  9. Name*Chedar

    Gingrich is worried about Atheist? Give me a break. He does not believe in God otherwise. Why will he having an affair while he is married. He broke the 10 commandment. He should worry about himself before he worried about others.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  10. onelinerix

    hmm. secular yet dominated by islam, atheists but dominated by islamists? what else is newt worried abt – a rapidly warming planet dominated by ice? he should worry abt his rapidly decaying grey cell.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  11. Johnny Chrome

    Religion is like the male member.
    It's okay to have one.
    It's alright to be proud of it.
    But please don't whip it out, wave it around, and try to shove it down other peoples' throats.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  12. Laurie

    You are wrong about you comment that he would have trouble 'courting religious conservatives' because of his past.You see, Christians beleive in conversion, repentance and forgiveness which has clearly occured in the case of Mr. Gingrich. Many saints were once bad sinners. Read about St. Augustine.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  13. runswithbeer

    How about an America that's a true Democracy. An open and FREE REPUBLIC. Ahh that would be a bit too Socialistic wouldn't it? "We hold these Truths to be Self-Evident that ALL MEN are CREATED EQUAL." doesn't get anymore Socialistic than that......

    March 29, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  14. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    The GOP wants you to be afraid. Very, very afraid!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • jersvette

      I am afraid, not of Newt but those that would actually vote for him.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  15. fuzzynormal

    Please, people, quote bible verses here for me. Quick! That will change my mind.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  16. dbo

    Gingrich is the best reason yet to be an atheist.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • thinkingperson

      hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  17. John of Michigan

    Newt attributed his adulterous affairs to his patriotism; and now his conversion to Catholicism to patriotism. What's next?

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

    You can't have an atheist nation dominated by islamists.

    Athiest = does not believe in God or Gods /Islamist = follows Islamic holy laws

    he is just stringing random words that sound good to right wingers.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • JL

      Really? See Turkey.

      I think is just trying to stir up the crowd, but he's not that dumb.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  19. Erik

    Wow... Seriously??? An athiest country... obviously he doesnt even know what the heck that means!!

    Does he know what it means to be secular?

    Americans actually vote for people of this calliber of intelligence? Thats scary. Really really f'ing scary.

    Somone needs to take the nukes away from the Americans, and give them a time out.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  20. Thoughtman

    Wow. I am thankful for Newt's honesty so we can see his ignorance through his brilliance.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Charles

      This guy is a most irresponsible person I have ever seen. Don't want to see him and he is in the right place when he goes to see John Hageee who is the most hateful person in the country. GOD HELP US.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • sunnygirl

      I am astounded at Newt's hypocrisy. Apparently he loves his country so much he needs to divorce wive(s) to bang new one's.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:49 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.