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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. Rich

    Why does anyone care what this fool says?

    March 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Jake P.

      People likely care what this "fool" says because words tend to reflect an individual's thoughts, and thoughts tend to influence an individual's actions. Furthermore, this "fool" who made these statements has expressed intent in becoming the next President of the United States. If one were to combine the two, he would recognize the cause for concern.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Kelsey

      Hmm, all this crap about Sharia law reminds me about how one of the know-nothing mebrems of the Oklahoma legislature not long ago introduced a bill to prohibit liberals from implementing Sharia law without realizing they would be the biggest critics of such a move. Unfortunately most of the righties are singularly ignorant of American history except to the extent it is rewritten and manufactured by the likes of David Barton. Evidently Newt is counting on righties' historical amnesia about how he ended his first two marriages and was bopping his present wife Callista while married to second wife Marianne while calling for President Clinton's impeachment. Newt is also counting on people to forget that he made a lot of enemies in his own party and that he tried to shut down government funding in a fit of pique with his seating on Air Force One. Bonnie-I think you are recalling Sam Cooke's song Wonderful World. Unfortunately, the dumbing down of the citizens continues apace.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  2. Jason

    OK moron...explain to me how the US can be atheist and still dominated by radical Islamists??? You know that Islam is also a monotheistic religion, right moron? Right now we're dominated by radical Christians. Oh how I wish we were an atheist country and religion was gone.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  3. Jake P.

    The following is an email I sent to Mr. Gingrich:

    As an individual who is unconvinced of the existence of any deity, I completely understand your fears of a growing secular society. Free-thinking individuals tend to recognize flawed reasoning, and your campaigns are predicated entirely of misdirection, straw men, ad hominems, and appeals to emotion and intuition; you fear not only reasoned debaters, but a thoughtful pool of voters. For these reasons, I can acknowledge the personal concerns you might experience from the growing population of individuals who remain unpersuaded by Bronze Age myths. However, reason is slowly taking over this nation, and many are abandoning their former irrational ways. While you have at your disposal an infinite number of options for action, the following stands out as the most likely dilemma you will confront. You may accept this growing movement towards rationality, or you may resist it with the understanding that there are millions across this nation who can easily obliterate you in theological debate. By all means, resist and avoid discourse. But understand that your ignorance will be discredited on social media and networking sites around the world. And when I write the term "discredited," I am not referring to ad hominem jabs, like you so often use; by "discredited," I am referring to an all-out refutation of your entire position.

    Having communicated that, I invite you to demonstrate the existence of your deity sometime. You see, as a non-believer, I am required to do nothing more than demonstrate that supposing the existence of a god is unreasonable; anything more is just having fun. Once you admit that your position is predicated upon faith (belief without evidence), what am I supposed to do–reason with you (after you already admitted to maintaining an unreasonable position)? If you claim to believe because of evidence, I demand you forfeit the term "faith" and submit this "evidence" for evaluation. Once you have done that, you must concede that your "evidence" is no different than the "evidence" cited by every other religious group in the world; you must acknowledge that the Christian doctrine, just like every other religious doctrine, was written by man. You may not declare that a deity inspired the doctrine, because you must first establish the existence of your deity *before* proclaiming that it motivated men to write its words. The very best you can offer is that the men who wrote the Bible *claimed* that it was inspired by God. While you may readily argue that every other "god" is simply the creation of man, you are forced into demonstrating that your deity is no different. Face it, your belief is irrational! Moreover, while I am not obligated to do so, I can likely demonstrate the non-existence of your deity in the same way that I can demonstrate the non-existence of a square circle. I only require that you define your deity and establish how you have come to know of these attributes, especially if it is "supernatural" and imperceptible by humans.

    I hate to break this to you, but you have just destroyed any hopes you might have possessed for presidential office. I realize that you are merely pandering to the uneducated and ignorant masses, but your statements have invited the free-thinking community to thoroughly dismantle your platform before November of 2012.

    By the way, an atheist lacks a belief in a deity, while a radical "Islamist" adheres to an irrational belief in Allah. I see the mission of non-believers everywhere is going to be far too easy. Please get back with me on that evidence or concede your unreasonable beliefs. If you would like to take me up on an offer to debate the Bible, *your doctrine*, let me know. Remember I Peter 3:15. Otherwise, I request that you retract your divisive statements, and I wish you the very best (with the exception of your political campaign).

    March 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • bp

      Not only is that a thought out logical letter its funny too! I wonder if he will contact you back... probably not, or if he does I imagine he will give you some bible rhetoric without any evidence. Got to admit though Im impressed, you should shoot his email out on here so the rest of us can contact him too.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Jake P.

      I just went to his website. Just browse his name on Google; he is the first one that popped up. My letter could have been better, but I have a lot of chemistry homework to complete. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that the world harbors other non-believers, just like you and me, that are capable of writing similar or better responses to his ignorance. Thank you for the compliment, though. I was just venting; getting that out, and your compliment, made me feel better.

      I only wish I would have included something like, "you continue praying for me, and I'll continue to think for you." Oh well, life goes on, and there is chemistry to complete. Best wishes.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • AmericanInfidel

      "Amen" Brother!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • Jake P.

      "Ramen" AmericanInfidel!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  4. marlanea

    The church so far as done a wonderfull job in creating more and more athiests. Religon has turned more people athiest then any false gods. Mega churches with so many back sliding hipocrates fuel the fires of hell, most of them are the conservative right I believe, most in typical racist states. Hello Texas!

    March 28, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  5. Tim

    Oh Newt, you jus' trollin'.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  6. AmazingSteve

    Holy crap this is terrifying. You know people are going to vote for this psycho, and a lot of them will probably have heard about this and approve.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  7. Frederica

    Whatever happens, it'll be Christians and their sacrifice again to save and rescue both Muslims and atheists from each other's man-made disasters. As usual, throughout the history all over the world. When will pagans grow up? Never.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Another Larry

      You haven't really studied much history, have you?

      March 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Freddy never studied anything but her own navel.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • bp

      @ Frederica I challenge you to enroll in the following 5 courses at a local community college:
      1. World History
      2. World Religions
      3. Ethics
      4. Philosophy
      5. Logic

      Warning: You might learn something, and at least be able to argue your side of the issues better
      See us Atheist are not bad people! I'm actually trying to help you not sound retardted.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Another Larry

    Why do so many comments that don't involve any offensive language of any kind seem to need the approval of a moderator?

    March 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      There aren't really any moderators. Most likely it was word fragments that got your comment held. Like -t.i.t – in consti.tution or -c.u.m- in circu.mstance.
      Reality has posted(many times) a list of all flagged words. I think near the beginning pages of this thread you will find one of his posts. Just check your text for big words that might be harbouriing little nasty ones...it's a pain I know.
      Cheers

      March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  9. Eric

    ...and it'll be a fascist, communist, anarchy!

    March 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      Bahahahaha!

      BEST. COMMENT. EVER.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  10. roquefort muckraker

    How can it be an atheist country dominated by Muslim radicals? Doesn't really make sense.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  11. Iqbal Khan

    Check this if U can...
    Graphic Video –

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/photos/motorcyle-kill-20110327/0692075

    March 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  12. Gary C

    What respect I once had for him during the Clinton years has utterly vanished.

    Just when I think nobody could be say anything dumber than Sarah Palin, Newt takes the prize. The US is utterly finished as a world power if either of them gain the presidency. How I wish the once proud republican party can clense itself of these moronic talibvangelicals and once again become a credible small government opposition.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  13. SB

    America was founded as a secular state, Mr. Gingrich, or have you forgotten? Secular government (that is a non-religious government) supported by a brilliantly written Bill of Rights is –> THE ONLY REASON <– that you and I or anyone else is allowed practice religion freely in the United States. Remove the quality of secularism from government and you invite theocracy. And we all know how well theocratic sectarianism has worked out for the Middle East where the oldest nations in the world are the most backward, underdeveloped, and most prone to war.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Amit

      Dang, Curt I've never seen a more effective ponettial for a three sentence post than you've demonstrated ala:….our choices suck:So where does that leave us?Screwed.LOL'tis a pity that, with this election, we didn't have better choices bubbling to the surface. But I've long held that this election, and inherited situation (picking Obama's fave phrase), scares the tar out of most. They know that reversing the detrimental trends put into place by the terrible trio Obama-Pelosi-Reid takes more time for yielding results than a single term will offer. Not to mention any POTUS will still be saddled with a big spending Congress, passing off cuts to future spending as genuine cuts. pffftIn that case, it's NOT likely that any GOP member, let alone conservative, are going to find themselves popular with the nation for re'election in 2016. I'm guessing most pols, hoping for a good legacy and cushy future, don't want the risk. @, I doubt you'd get much argument from me on Paul's fiscal and domestic policies. But, as usual, he's too libertarian and isolationist in both trade/borders and foreign policy for me to swallow. But I'd pay the price of admission to see him as Treasury Sec'y. And God help the Fed Reserve Chair if he were.Reply

      November 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  14. skeptic2

    What I fear is a reactionary evangelical Christian country, dominated by blindly indoctrinated followers of a religion that brooks no dissent, suffers no understanding of the scientific method and uses its power to deflect taxpayer monies for its own purposes. Electing that sanctimonious hypocrite Newt Gingerich will just be icing on the cake of our inevitable religious intolerance.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • BillK

      Well stated; thanks!

      March 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Another Larry

      Agreed. One of the worst side effects of religion is that its faith-based approach to beliefs spills over into other realms where, unlike religion, there is real evidence and data on which beliefs should be based but often aren't.

      That's how we ended up preserving tax rates that haven't produced a significant number of jobs in 7 years, because we need them to create jobs. It's why people believe the free market will lower health care spending or that investors and businesses will always do the smart and rational thing if government leaves them alone.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  15. K. Mason

    There is nothing Christian about the founding of the United States. The Bible explicitly invites the divine rights of kings and orders Christians not to revolt against their worldly rulers.

    It's interesting how many on the religious right are not content to rewrite their own sacred texts and history but must also claim that those who speak against them are some sort of shadowy propagandists waiting to take away their crosses and force Sharia Law on them.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  16. Peace2All

    From the Article, Newt Gingrich says: "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.)"

    So... just some of the *inferences* from Newt are:

    1)Secular Atheism=Bad

    2)Secular Atheism is somehow at a similar logical level = to 'radical Islamists'

    3)He knows what it once meant to be an American= His views of what it means to be an American...are the 'right' views.

    4)Radical Islamists will 'dominate' the U.S. somehow. Hmmm... Don't mind the 'radical evangelical Christians' though, apparently.

    5)And... I don't think it's too far of a stretch, that he is taking a swipe a Muslim's and Islam in general.

    There are a lot more 'inferences' and 'presuppositions' here.

    But... I think it's safe to say that the 'radical right' extremist 'fear-mongering' and 'saber rattling' has started.

    Yes... great going Newt ! IMHO, you just made yourself look and sound like a moron.

    However, I'm sure the 'extreme right' are just lovin' you right now.

    Peace...

    March 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Peace2All: As always, very well said.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • pProf

      I'm no supporter of the warmonger Gingrich, but i would fear radical Islam far more than radical evangelical Christianity.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • College Prof

      Your forgot one....college professors are ruining the country by "seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values."

      So, if we follow his logic.... Higher Education = destruction

      Wow, and to think that I was operating under the idea that education was beneficial to our nation, helping our young adults develop the critical thinking skills to help them participate in our republic from an informed, intellectual position.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Kuddln

      So very true with your evaluation of what Newt did speak out. I just think that this particular event should be repeated occasionally as he "runs" for President of the United States of America, so that the public will know what he's talking about!

      March 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Jake P.

      6.) Dey durker derbs!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  17. TheRationale

    How stupid can you get? An atheist country dominated by violent theological moonbats...Yeah that makes perfect sense.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  18. nemo235

    our founding fathers were mostly Freemasons and athiests

    March 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  19. nemo235

    jerimia 16 doesn't even say the words he quoted, and even if it did , it is from the old testement and would have already come to pass in the days of jesus. Plus, the fact that most of the Israeli Jews don't have roots in Israel arenot descendants of the Isrtaelites of the bible. these guy's need to put down the crack pipe

    March 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  20. Michael Klein

    Mr. Gingrich's comments are contradictory. Radical Islamists are fanatical believers in God who think atheists are infidels and blasphemers. An atheist country dominated by radical Islam is a contradiction in terms.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • SB

      Of course comments like Gingrich's aren't designed to make sense, they're designed to incite fear.

      March 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Ron

      Very true. The GOP is great at creating fear and conservative Christianity has habit of taking it and running with it, spreading fear and internalizing it. It's quite the shame/sham.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Simon

      I also love the way he uses "secularist" as if it's a bad thing.

      The most successful civilisations are/were secular.

      But hey, its ok to have a theocracy as long as its *your* version of theism, right?

      I weep for America.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • sandman

      Mr. Morality speaks!!! Gingrich is a hypocrit of the highest order, part of the Family no doubt.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
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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.