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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. susan

    Go Gingrich! You've got my vote!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  2. kungumastah

    I am amazed at the hypocracy of most religious people that I know. Claiming to be Christian, yet sitting in judgement on everyone else but themselves. And they are just as flawed as anyone. Some of them curse, cheat on their spouses, are generally mean spirited, etc, but I guess it's ok; they are better because they go to church. Right. Newt, a moral compass is based on treating others as you would like to be treated. That does not require subscription to Christianity. And being Muslim does not make you immoral. You know, I really wouldn't care if Obama was a Muslim; i would still vote for him over some stuffed shirt claiming to be 'christian' and 'moral' while promoting the corporate pillaging of america in the name of 'conservatism'.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  3. Roscoe Chait

    How can America become an atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? Islamists believe in God. So if they dominate America, then it will not be atheist. I think we should have a moratorium on religion in any case. Too many people have been killed and destroyed by religion, God, Jesus, Allah, Mohammed, etc. Let's give it a year with no religion and see if the planet is a better place.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  4. Dazer

    Fear-mongering is the only way the GOP knows. Fear it. Fear them. Fear knowledge.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  5. Nutes

    We have beaten this one down, go back to work people. CNN your reply to doesn't work, fix it.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  6. Jon O

    I see a "Christian" movement in this country that has so debased the message of Jesus that more atheists are exactly what we need.

    Seems to me we have millions of Christians in this country... but child starvation and disease are still issues. Why don't you read up on some of your Jesus – especially where he talks about sacrificing your wealth and well being to improve the lot of those less fortunate – and mobilize your supposedly morally superior Christians to stamp out this problem?

    Bah – I see a lot of people who like to wave their bibles in the air and scream and yell but when Christianity requires time, effort or money, suddenly that bible is nowhere to be seen.

    Yes, there are REAL Christians who do more than SAY they follow Christ, but they are not the majority and the influence of Christ's teachings should influence every hour of every day, not just when you need something convenient.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  7. Th0pt3r

    Poor Newt, the body lives but the brain died decades ago.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  8. R.

    "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." (Here again....the typical fear-mongering from a political cantidate, in a single sentence containing an obvious contradiction. That being, 'a secular atheist country' (not religious) 'dominated by radical Islamists' (religious). Also implied here, is that one should fear athiests as one would fear radical islamists.
    Ohh.....where to start.....???
    This level of ignorance is astounding & yet scary at the same time, since this is someone who could (maybe, possibly) become president.
    "The former House Speaker held up his own faith (he converted to Catholicism two years ago) as proof of his undying patriotism." (Since when is the strength of your belief in a mythological creature also a measure of your patriotism. So, in other words; if your not religious, your not patriotic. Mr. Gingrich.....you insult inumerable patriotic peaople with your ignorant words.)
    "He lashed out at the college professors and mainstream media he says are seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values." (These are college professors who have studied our history & know it's facts. Their knowledge is not based on the revisionist "christian" doctrine that you Mr. Gingrich so blindly believe.)
    For Mr. Gingrich to lower himself to this level shows that he is either as truly ignorant as his words indicate or he is truly the gutter politician who will say whatever his current audience wants to hear, just to get elected. Mr. Gingrich, you are an embarassment.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  9. God's Gift

    Religion is not dieing out in the USA. Rather organised religion is. Jesus even said beware of organized religion. Religions and money are the biggest threats to prosperity for all. Let organized religion and money die out. Poverty, hungar, and lots of crime would become things of the past. Funny how lots of religious leaders are amoung the richest people. Looks more like they stuff their pockets more than help the meek. People of the world could have everything for free, all they would have to do is work or go to school.( unless unable to due to age or health) It would mean people wouldn't have to worry about the power or gas companies turning off anything in the dead of winter. People would no longer starve. Crimes of robbery and white coller crimes would be done with. Drugs for the most part would be gone also. Companies would still produce goods for people , and people could do lots more and be far happier. Of course bankers and insurance companies, morgage companies, pawn shops, payday loans, IRS and treasuries would be a thing of the past. The only things in this world that have value is what people do, not what they make. We would have tones of people curring lots of disease and healing those that need it instead of ripping people off. Many many more pluses to a world without greed. No longer would people have to chew off their own arms and leggs (figuratively) to pay paul. Just my opinion. thank you for your time.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  10. xiam007

    Save your money Newt, save yourself the Embarrassment, you are on your THIRD wife, and no matter how that happened, you CANNOT win....LOL

    March 29, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  11. Nino Chavez

    Newt Gingrich is either a massive hypocrite and panderer, completely delusional and irrational or both. Might want to consider the word demagogue as well. I love how these conservative politicians try their best to assume the affectation of being a "good christian", when they are anything but. I also love how he's trying to use these people's paranoia and bigotry in order to manipulate loyalty out of them. A tried and true neoconservative trick. Also worked for the Nazi's as well. Gingrich and the like are in good company.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  12. Sophie

    Are we not a nation founded on the thought and ideal that all religions or lack thereof will have freedom? So because many americans are moving away from christian based relgions and heaven forbid, moving toward atheism and islam, our country is in decline? You are a bigot Gingrich and I dont think you stand a chance.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  13. paul 1st

    If the country is dominated by radical Islamists, it would not be atheistic. Gingrich is trying to cram too many scare tactics into a a single thought.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • johnc

      @paul 1st: Thoughts are way over his head.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  14. Matt

    "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” in the foreseeable future"

    That's some good fear mongering right there. He crammed two completely non-related groups into one statement meant to scare the bejesus out of people. Also nice how he lumps atheists in with people that he's equating with terrorists. Last time I checked atheists didn't believe in the Islamic god, either.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  15. Bob

    After statements like that, does he honestly believe he can run for President and be taken seriously? He's also been screaming for the past year or so about Sharia Law overtaking our current justice system. In what universe, Newt?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  16. liz

    Personally, I am far more afraid of the US Chamber of Commerce than atheists and US Muslims

    March 29, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  17. sunnygirl

    if he were speaking to single women he would tell them that he needed to become president so that they wouldn't have to be alone...you know vote for me and i'll bang you.....

    March 29, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  18. AmishAirline

    Change the headline to read: "U.S. fears Gingrich being taken seriously by rubes".

    March 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  19. chris

    the educated people see thru it . it has become a if you are not like me you are not worthy !!!!!!! i will answer to god when i die , i will never ever answer to lying cheating stealing selfish human ever , religion is evil , humans just want to have everything , an will control anyone they can to get it .

    March 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Jillian

      I disagree. Not all religion is evil, thats too broad a generalization. I do think that when people exploit their beliefs to change other people, then it becomes evil. That also applies to when they try to mix religion with things that shouldn't be influenced by it. Gingrich is a good example of that.

      April 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  20. John/kc

    I think it is laughable that Hagee supports Newt considering Newt's past of divorcing his wife while on her death bed and running off with another woman. He left his second wife when he found out she had MS. Newt is such a worm, no pun intended. Personally, I think Hagee's church should have its tax exempt status pulled for supporting political candidates from his pulpit. Hagee is nothing but a fat a*s profiteer that talks a good talk, but rakes in the money as his main motive. He reminds me so much of a local man of the cloth called Jerry Jones. Show me the money.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Matt

      You know what they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Observer

      Hypocrisy and religious leaders frequently go hand-in-hand.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • iamthefredman

      Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both have made lifetime careers out of preaching from their pulpits and antagonizing the public. You need you go to curch. You are helping to prove Newt's point about atheists in America. This country was founded on the search for religious freedom (Remember the Pilgrims?). Nobody ever came to America in the colonial days to start Facebook or Citibank. It was all about religion. I don't care what religion you follow, just pick one and go to church/temple/syngogue.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Barlingwood

      @Iamthefredman. So any religion is ok but I need one. So what about people who just dont believe in the existence of a non-material reality, who are just not cognitively capable of such thoughts like myself. What we we supposed to do? Its not something we have control over you know. You cant just think "Oh Newt and Iamthemfredman command I have a religion so now I will believe to be a good boy" I just dont get you...

      March 30, 2011 at 9:08 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.