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. disgusted

    I find it sad that we will consider letting someone run for office when they obviously have a religious focus in mind. We need less people worrying about what invisible friend they talk to and more people worrying about whether or not they can do the job and fix all things broken.

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." – Benjamin Franklin

    "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." – Thomas Jefferson

    "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."
    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

    March 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  2. Independent

    Did he forget about the Socialist Zombie apocalypse? C'mon Newt, don't hold back, let the fear machine rip...

    March 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  3. John

    hahahahah, are you serious right now? What happened to all the smart republicans . . . I promise, a republican will not win the White house and if they do, there will be a Civil unrest in the US.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  4. Satan

    Did he just say you must be Catholic to be a patriotic American??? So does that mean you need to be molested by your priest to be a good American??? I used to be catholic and I studied many religions once I became 19 years old and that made me become an atheist. Apparently according to Newt I should not have an open mind and try to figure out what I believe on my own, but believe what he wants me to.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  5. Acaraho

    Newt fears an atheist country? I fear politicians who cheat on their ill wives. Tell me, who would you rather trust?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  6. ChicagoComments

    That's a boy Newt!! You go little man, keep spewing violent nonsense that has no basis in reality. I do believe that Gingrich is a closet democrat, because why else would he be giving these verbal gifts, that can keep on giving, to the democrats.

    Really, Newt, do you really listen to yourself bloviating,? Do any of your staff have the necessary critical education and thinking skills to know that they are working for a chronically divisive career politician who wants to wield power but sorely lacks the necessary principles and morals to do so

    March 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  7. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Who is this disgusting person to be talking about morals. He cheated on his wife. I sure don't want his small-minded brand of religion shoved on me. Threats of church control by freaks like him are the reason for separation of church and state.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  8. Mike Johnson

    Newt is gaming stupid conservatives by lying, vilifying others and fear.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  9. Kingofthenet

    Oh Noes, Not the Atheists, WWJOARD? (What would Jeebus on a Raptor do)?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  10. zaphedbeeblebrox

    epublicans are idiots.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  11. nelson

    The sad thing is that he would (will) receive millions of votes from people who are scared to death; they have a hard time understanding our changing world and see all those who are different as threats. Today there are times when I am ashamed to say that I am an educator but there are also those times when I wonder whether being a Christian is worth it too. But then I remember that my God is a forgiving God and that my faith is not founded on fear. Mr. Gingrich, go home and keep quiet-your day is past.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Russ

      yes, I am ashamed your are an educator, too.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Acaraho

      Russ: why do you criticize people for speaking their minds? They are allowed to say what they think without you criticizing them for no good reason other than you don't agree with their opinion. Instead of trashing others' viewpoints why don't you tell us of your opinions on the subject matter? That way we can better understand your motivations for criticism.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  12. Kev

    I'd love to hear his explanation for how the atheists who fight doggedly for separation of church and state would somehow align with radical Islam. If the American public is dumb enough to buy that story, then we deserve him as our leader.

    On a side note...I can see why Gingrich fears atheism – after all, in an atheist country there is no God to forgive his habitual adulterous behavior (divorcing your wife while she's bed-ridden with cancer so you can go and shack up with your mistress involves at least a few other major sins, I'd wager). Given the man's proclivities though, you'd think he'd be all for radical Islam as it lets men do far worse to women than his Christian upbringing.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  13. Joe Jeffrey

    Ah yes, Newt, the slimiest S.O.B. of them all, the guy who dumped his wife screws around on his wife, dumps her in the hospital where she's recovering from cancer, grabs a trophy wife, and claims he did it because he loved his country too much. The guy who hasn't a clue about our history or American values, screeching about American values and radical Islamism. A grotesque parody of a man, an American, and a Christian.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  14. Chris

    Typical right wing pseudo christian fear uncertainty and doubt. The US is certainly becoming increasingly fundamentalist christian under the influence of this sort of disinformation. As education declines reliance on religion increases. It's so much easier to have belief than understanding.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  15. Chad

    I would WELCOME a more secular-minded country. Agnosticism and atheism are grounded in pragmatism and rational objectivity. Old-school religions are based on fear, irrational beliefs, and hubris (I can't die! I'm a human being! I'll get to live forever if I believe the right things!). Compared to other fully-industrialized nations who are secular (think Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, S. Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, etc.), we are at or near the bottom of the heap on MULTIPLE lists (murder rates, domestic violence, education, teen pregnancy rates, high school dropout rates, etc.) and it's because we're the only real "first-world" country that still cleaves to Bronze Age/Iron Age religious fantasies.

    And honestly, Newt, “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists"? I'm glad others commenting here have called you out on your incongruous, populist fear-mongering.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Russ

      enjoy your time in hell.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Acaraho

      Religion and Faith are two different things. Religion can mean so many different things (mostly negative) and most religions are corrupt in many ways. On the other hand pure Faith is a beautiful and most spiritual thing. Faith does not rely on religion for its relevance. Faith is a one on one relationship with our Creator.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • Acaraho

      Russ: sorry but you're wrong about Chad. Christ said: Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. You just gave Chad the key to eternal life with his Creator.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  16. Bad Bob

    The last thing I want in my life is being preached to by this womanizing, vulgar maniac.

    Newt, we like you better when you were hosting pot parties back when you were a college prof!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  17. Common Sense Guy

    He is a fear exploitationist. Being an American has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with freedom, which is apparently what he would like to limit for those who believe differently than he does. Typical conservative buffoon pandering to the lowest common denominator to curry votes for the upcoming election. Cue the "socialism" comment. Ah and we can't forget about inciting fear of those "dirty illegals." His comments are directly aimed at middle-aged, high-school educated, gun toting, xenophobe, evangelicals. That's his ticket.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • pj

      thank you mr common sense guy! very well said.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  18. Gil Nodges

    All the pandering in the world won't help, Newt......It ain't gonna happen.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Dean

    Ooh! Ooh! I get it. Make a speech with 'atheist' and 'Islamist' together so we can demonize even more people! Kind of like combining Socialist and Liberal. WE NEED A NEW BOOGEYMAN TO SCARE THE MASSES!

    March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • SIxoh

      Socialist and Liberal are the same

      March 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • FistedSister

      Agreed. Two follow ups. 1. I would like to point out how convenient and hypocritical Newt's use of Christianity has been, especially with respect to a nation founded on the premise of secular thought and freedom of religion and beliefs. 2. His statement is ridiculous, “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” You could scarcely put together two more polar opposite beliefs/groups. Secular atheism and radical Islam are mutually exclusive by definition.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • FistedSister

      Sixoh, I'm guessing that you didn't mean for that to be funny, but I like it. Anything can be whatever you want it to be in your head, especially if you don't like to read books.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  20. vbscript2

    That's a good question Ninjak. I was wondering the same thing myself. I'm a conservative Christian and I hope he doesn't run. It sounds like the pickings are going to be slim in 2012. It's a golden opportunity for Republicans, but they need to find someone that isn't an idiot to run, as opposed to doing what the Dems did in 2004. For goodness sake, I wish they'd stop talking about Gingrich, Palin, Trump, and Huckabee. Frist, Romney, etc. would be much better choices. Perhaps get McCain as a running mate. He's not my first choice, but he actually had a shot if he hadn't chosen Palin. He was ahead in polls before he chose her.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Acaraho

      Funny, the term 'Conservative Christian' is an oxymoron. Christ was anything but conservative. His teachings revolved around the lessons: give to the poor, care for the sick, turn the other cheek, seek peace in the world, have mercy for all people. Those are values addressed by liberals not conservatives. When did conservatives ever espouse those concepts?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Bill

      No offense but you're wrong about the polling. McCain was behind Obama from day one. His boost from the GOP Convention was very short-lived. Once the emphasis on the 2008 Pres race shifted from Iraq to the economy, McCain didn't stand a chance.

      If you web-search "2008 presidential polls" you'll see what I mean.



      March 28, 2011 at 11:18 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.