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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. CptKendrick

    Dear Lord,

    Please save us from those who believe in you.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  2. Jason

    Gingrich statement contradicts with The Treaty of Tripoli, signed on November 4, 1796 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli

    I also can't recall Jefferson or Franklin being particularly religious. It worries me that people fail to take the five minutes required to discover this information and merely accept what Gingrich is stating as fact. The growing Atheist population is showing that America is headed in a direction of reason and logic.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  3. Diane

    OH YES! The "Christians" are such peace-filled, loving, generous people. Ask any Native American.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  4. Webster

    While Newt is looking up "atheist" in his dictionary, this preacher and his congregation should look up "pandering" in theirs.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  5. CptKendrick

    My invisible boogy man can kick your invisible boogy man's butt!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  6. Gerard

    Isn't a" secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists" an Islamic country? Not an atheist one? Gingrich assumes atheism is synonymous with lack of morals and opposition to societal mores. My experience is this cannot be further from the truth. Choosing not to revere a deity does not imply lack of love, respect or commitment to society. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons 74% of prisoners identify as Catholic or Protestant; .2% identify as atheists. Hmm!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  7. wadyaknow

    People voted for Reagan and people voted for Bush. People will vote for this guy because people are stupid, especially the f-ing teabaggers.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  8. MadCityBabe

    Jezus – shut this guy down right now.........we dont need CRAZY running for President..........KEEP CHURCH AND STATE SEPARATE....OTHERWISE YOU GET PYSCHO

    March 29, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  9. CJEH

    What it means to be American- Freedom of worship, freedom of religion, freedom of thought. For everyone, not just the people who think like you.

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

      You will never be allowed in the republican party.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  10. Matt

    Newt Gingrich is either ignorant of basic religious terminology, or he's dishonestly dispensing as many "buzzwords of fear" that he can cram into his diatribe. Neither ignorance nor dishonesty is appealing.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Concerned4Fla

      You are so right on man–kind of generous of you to give him the benefit of the doubt. Speaking to extremists, I'd bet dollars to donuts he knew exactly what he was doing. Gotta rile up the crazies...

      March 29, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  11. Bman

    And where are these muslims supposed to come from, Mexico? Canada?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  12. Tina

    wow I need what this guy is smoking! Seriously – I hope they put him up as a republican candidate cause it would be an easy win for Mr Obama in 2012.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  13. drp

    Remember: separation of church and state...just keep repeating that Mr. Gingrich. We all have the right to believe what we want to believe. We do not have the right to inflict our beliefs onto others...much to your chagrin as well as the Christian extremists.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Frank

      There are "extremist" in EVERY religion......Not every muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist is a muslim!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Erky

      Frank, you're an idiot.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Kevin, Virginia

      Hey Frank you are aware that Timothy Mcvay was a devote christian fundamentalist..... right?

      March 29, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  14. MichGuy

    This guy is a certified lunatic.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  15. not an atty.

    The logic of this is laughable. Does Gingrich know that Islam is also religion? Therefore – and I do not think this would ever happen – if Islam ever came to dominate the religious makeup of our DEMOCRACY, the US would still not be atheistic.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  16. Fck the police

    Jesus Christ...what the hell is up this guy's a$$?!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  17. Joseph

    I don't think he knows what any of those words mean.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  18. Observer

    @maggie,
    "Speak for your own religion. There is one one religion that never kill others or each other."

    Which one? It's certainly not Christianity. The greatest loss of lives ever for Americans came from Christians killing Christians in the Civil War.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  19. Anchorite

    All I really get from this is Gingrich is paranoid and has no concept of what his own country is like. It would be like fearing Saudi Arabia would suddenly become atheist, dominated by Christian radicals.

    Also, "secular," "atheist," and "radical Islamist" are all mutually exclusive. Atheist means no religion, secular means separation of church and state, and radical Islamist is extremely religious with no separation of church and state. One would think someone who spends any time learning about faith would know all this.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Chris

      Well said. Gingrich is simply using people's fears (unfounded fears at that) to sway them to vote for him. I never understand why church is brough up so much when discussing a presidential run. Once in office he should continue to follow his faith but leave it at the door on the job. The whole idea of this country is that everyone should be able to have religeous freedom and he is basically proposing that Christianity is the only faith that is valid. I'm not sure which is worse...him saying what he said or that people will actually believe him and vote based soley on his scare tactics.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Kevin, Virginia

      Secular and atheists are in no way mutually exclusive. Maybe you should look them up because your definition of secular is wrong.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  20. Name*Chedar

    How can a radical islamist be atheist? Is Gingrich for real. In Islam there is Allah and in Christianity there is God. The greatest religion is being human with love and compassion. Nothing beats it.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • drp

      Absolutely.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Laura

      Scare tactics. Newt is one to talk about religions, with his cheating ways. He picks and chooses which rules he wishes to follow, then points at others for doing the same. Such a phony.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • PullenSeeker

      That was my thought too, but of course Newt is just using all the correct alarmist words to perpetuate a politics of fear – probably one of the surest paths to radicalization of our own country. He's telling the people at this church that they are right to be afraid of these things, he's afraid of them too, and to elect him because electing him will at least hold this scenario at bay for a few years.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Terry

      dumber than a bag of gravel – but will America buy this moron in 2012 ?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:46 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.