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. Johnny Cage

    Hopefully, super religious nuts do not get into power as their opinions on what's right for the country will greatly skew what actually is right for the country. If America goes athiest, it would not necessarily be a bad thing. Perhaps religion is moving towards a more personal meaning for people instead of the social groupings it used to be. Evolution is changing the face of religion in terms of how religion itself is evolving over each new generation.

    If you were to never introduce religion to a child and then ask them if they would convert and believe at age 16... do you think they would? Is it possible mass brainwashing is a major culprit for how America functions right now (and other countries) starting from a young age, and with the rise of social internet interactions, it is being surpressed? totally possible.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  2. purin meow

    Islamic militants do feed the poor in their countries...it would be a nice change to see the poor get fed!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  3. Pete

    I am a Christian, but I know the dangers of letting Christian extremists run the country. Any time someone thinks it's a good idea to mix politics and religion, they end up doing a horrible job from both perspectives.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • hobbes

      You rock, sir. I may not share your beliefs, but I share your logic and sanity.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  4. Vader

    Said by others, but I, too, am puzzled by the characterization of 'atheist' and 'radical Islamist'. That is, by definition, an oxymoron, not unlike 'intelligent Republican candidate.' Further, it is my 'belief' (and I have to be careful with that word in this context) that the ideals of the United States are more greatly endangered by the dogma of 'God-fearin' Christians' than any 'secular atheists'. Also Newt, since when is 'secular' and 'atheist' inextricably entwined? Can someone not be secular where the public arean is concerned, holding tightly to the principal of church/state separation, and still be privately (as it is most appropriate) religious? Otherwise, I have to hold with the moral standard of 'Don't Tread on Me', and you and anyone else who wishes to impose 'Christian' (as you define it) mumbo-jumbo on me will have a fight on your hands. Oh wait, you already do (as you will find out in November 2012).

    March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  5. Bert in UT

    Wow! Besides being Islamic atheists, maybe we will also be Jewish Nazis! And certainly Mau-mau radicals, not born in the US.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  6. TonySeattle

    Hey Donald, 50 million HIspanics and growing......all Catholic (Christian)!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  7. Cat MacLeod

    Ahhh so which is it, a secular country or one dominated by radical islamists? The two don't really go together.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  8. hobbes

    Actually, what he fears is a nation not run by people who believe in an all powerful invisible man who lives in the sky. But it's even worse than that, he fears that it's not run by someone who has the *Right* invisible friend in his corner. The implication is that there are at least two, but very probably more ( for instance, I wonder what his stance would be on Catholics or mormons running the country would be ).

    Sadly, it looks like 2012 is going to come down to religion...again. And hey, guess what? Us independents are SICK of leaders trying to force their beliefs on us. We see the damage that causes in other countries, and we're terrified of that happening here. So, sadly, it's going to be Obama through 2016, then probably Clinton after that. Why? Because the republicans can't pull their heads out of their nether regions for 5 seconds and actually see what the more moderate population of the country needs.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  9. Ryan

    HIs comments have a certain logic to them in the context of the right wing worldview. In the right winger's mind, secularism goes hand in hand with cultural relativism. The latter is what would theoretically allow for radical Islam to grow and spread to which secular progressives would respond with little more than a shrug. After all, progressives would never fight for the civil rights of those oppressed under radical Islam.

    I can't begin to enumerate the ways that this line of thinking falls apart under scrutiny, but it does more or less square with the message being broadcast to right wing America. The fact that he was able to group public enemies #1 and #2 into the same sentence demonstrates imagination, but ultimately, I think optimism is far more effective at winning elections (see, for example, Reagan's "It's morning in America," the use of "Don't Stop" thinking about tomorrow in Clinton's campaign, and Obama's Hope® and Change©).

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  10. Satan

    I do not believe in Satan, he is just an excuse for weak-minded religious types that can't control their own urges. Everyone is tempted by bad things now and then, but the religious ones are more likely to do the bad things because they have a cop-out scapegoat in that Satan made them do it. Like I've heard many times, look at crime statistics and they are much, much worse in religious nations.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  11. Jason

    First of all, Islam has more similarity with Christianity than Atheism and Agnosticism. Secondly, if it's something that this toad hates, then it's probably a good thing.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  12. Brent

    Didn't Gingrich have an affair on his wife? What good is faith if you don't make positive life changes because of it.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • hobbes

      I believe he not only had affair on wife #2, but also told her that he was leaving her while she was in the hospital for something very serious.

      If he gets nominated based on his religious chops, we'll know the right wing is once and for all a bunch of hypocrites. Then maybe we can get down to the business of actually fixing this country.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  13. kevin

    what a tard

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  14. gkssj86

    Wow, I don't know that is anything more contradictory in nature than being atheist secular and Islamic radical. It might do Newt some good to go back to school. lol

    March 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  15. Diana

    I have to say I agree with Gingrich. There are many stories of the many of the dreams George Washington had while he was President. I believe there was one in which he had a dream that he saw angels pouring water upon a map of the United States and a voice in his dream had told him- as long as the angels of the Lord watch over the country- the country shall always prosper. Why do so many lose faith in God? I know its difficult to believe- after so many trials and difficulties- but don't give up on God- people harm other people- God doesn't harm people. There is so much hatred in the world- but hatred is spread by man- not by God- only man itself. Your faith in organized religion may be strained- but that doesn't mean your faith in God should be. You should understand there is a huge difference between religion and spirituality. Always remember- the devil is the king of doubt- so do not doubt that you are indeed God's children and let not your eyes be blinded in darkness. Jesus wants you to be part of his flock- to watch over you and protect you. Don't give up on God- He hasn't given up on you.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Secular Nation

      The Founders were Deists. Look it up. Thomas Jefferson was agnostic. Please do not delude yourself into thinking we are a Christian nation. Also, while you're at it, look up the Treaty of Tripoli (specifically Article 11).

      March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Cat MacLeod

      Which one of the 1000s of gods is the one you are referring to?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Zargoth

      So you are part of the problem, not part of the solution...

      Separation of church & state is essential in order to allow everyone to live as they choose; please try to understand that.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • godisdead

      Diana, I hate to break it to you - and no, I am not possessed by the devil, but god isn't real. God, Allah, and Yahweh are all the same thing. Christians stole from the Jews so Yahweh morphed into God, and then Islam borrowed from Christianity and God became Allah. Did you know Jesus is a prophet in Islam? Neat huh! Hundreds if not thousands of religions have existed since humans began to inhabit this nice little world, and each tribe, community, and nation have found the perfect fit for themselves. I assume you discount Zeus, Apollo, Odin, Osiris, Yahweh, and Allah, right? With ease, right? Well... why are you right? You aren't. Zero evidence of ANY god exists on this earth. God doesn't speak to you either, just FYI.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • KAK

      If you are stating that hate is only spread by man, and not by God, then why is it that men use God's words to spread hate? The religious claim that they are trying to "save" the world through a very skewed and considerably outdated form of moral relativism. Otherwise, where are the signs and marches against greed, against avarice, against bearing false witness against neighbors, against husbands and wives having affairs, against divorce, against women having a voice in family decisions, and a host of other sins as outlined in your religious text. What I see as modern day Christianity is not devotees trying to live by the words of the Bible, but rather pulling certain phrases and excerpts out of context and used to push a political agenda. Personally, if there is a God, I think he would disapprove of the way many Christians are behaving these days.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Leonore H. Dvorkin

      Diana, I'd like to hear the recording of the telephone conversation between you and your god or the letter he/she/it wrote you - with proof of the origin thereof, of course. And please don't refer me to your bible, that book of wildly contradictory mythology written by people long, long ago. You religious types are amazing, claiming that you actually know what your god is thinking! Personally, I am delighted to see America beginning to see the light of atheism. Atheists and agnostics are now about 15% of the American population, and that means we far outnumber either Muslims or Jews. Someday, we may become as enlightened as many European countries, where at least 50% of the population is made up of nonbelievers. Atheism lives and thrives, so you'd better get used to it.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      some of them were Deists, meaning they believed in a God but felt he had no interest or chose not to be involved in human existence. Probably the closest thing to an atheist at the time – since back 200-300 years ago no one even conceived of the "no god" idea yet – we had not advanced scientifically enough yet.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  16. Jennifer

    I don't think he will get the nomination... .his name is Newt. morals well, do as I say not as I do, is most politicians

    March 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  17. Buddha

    "a secular atheist country ... dominated by radical Islamists ". I'm pretty sure neither Gingrich nor his followers can fathom how hillariously silly this statement is.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  18. beth

    How can we be atheists and islamists at the same time?

    I'm all for atheism though. I've had enough of the religious shoving their version of god down my throat.

    Get your beliefs out of my school, laws, and body. You can deal with it all you want for yourself.

    As for me and my house, we will serve humanity.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Zargoth

      Thank you......

      March 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • KAK

      Couldn't agree more, or say it any better.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  19. Joe Mahma

    He must be smoking the same sh!t Palin smokes.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  20. Kristopher

    Secular, Athiest AND Islamic dominated? Aren't those three things pretty much contradictory?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Jake

      My thoughts exactly.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • KrisBush

      My thoughts exactly!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • kevin

      atheists 99/100 are secular.... haven't you heard of secular humanism?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Lucky Louie

      It makes perfect sense to Christians.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Jaik

      Seriously, Gingrich is such a loon. How can you have an atheist nation populated and run by theists?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Banjo

      A Christian simply follows the teachings of Christ, a biblethumper follows the teaching of backward politicians crowing for vote favour, get it straight, your embarrassing

      March 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65
About this blog

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.