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. LouieD

    “A secular atheist country, potentially dominated by radical Islamists,”

    That's like me saying that I fear a right-wing Gingrich-led country, dominated by rational, qualified people. Yes, PLEASE run for President, Macrocephalic McGee!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  2. SCinLV

    I love it when Republican's evoke the "Christian beginnings" of our Founding Fathers. They really need to do their homework. Christianity was the farthest thing from their minds when ol' Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al. got together to start this country. Separation of church and State people – as in NO state sponsored religion, period. There's plenty of info on the mixed bag of religions of the founding fathers. Unfortunately, it's not what Newt wants it to be.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      And 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 11:55 pm |
  3. Court Marital

    I wonder what his martial indiscretions were. Similar to George W Bush's?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Rohit

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      March 3, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  4. telrider

    Keep talking Gingrich and keep digging your political grave deeper.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      he is talking in circles because it works. He is a hypocrite and will do anything, I mean anything to be elected.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  5. atheitarian

    Wow Newt, I tend to vote Republican, but you just lost my vote. What an idiot. Atheists dislike islam as much as you do, but on grounds of rationality, instead of fear-fueled fiction.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Brian Macker

      Yep, there were some things I agreed with Newt on but now he'd never get my vote. I'd vote for Obama before him. I wish republicans would stop pandering to the most ignorant of Christians.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  6. regertz

    And he's a Papist, like me...And you know, we're a lot worse than radical Islamists. Or at least we were...Inquisition, Catholic crusaders attacking and murdering fellow Christians in Constantinople for loot, rapist Popes, greedy warrior Popes, heretic burning, repression of the poor to deny them education, etc to keep them "innocent", tolerance of slavery, more heretic burning...Repression of women...More Holy War Crusades slaughtering the defenseless...Oh, extreme fundamentalist Islam's got nothing on us.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Free Thinker Seeking Reason

    Secularism and atheism have plenty of ethics and morality in common with religion, just without all the dogma. Look it up. Give it a try.

    It works for me and fifty million other non-religious Americans to lead good, healthy, positive lives.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Colin

      See my comment above re: rejected posts. hope it helps.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  8. Mister Earl

    As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I say the christian extremists in this country scare me more than Al-Queda ever will.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  9. SchoolLIbrarian

    Lemme guess.... and if we all just give Newt our vote he will protect us from all of them?! I've grown tired of this scare tactic crap these yahoos keep using.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  10. AlaDan

    Maybe Gingrich fears an atheist USA, but I fear a Gingrich USA. So he wants to impose his beliefs on the rest of us...hmmmm not a good choice for President (of the USA anyway).

    March 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  11. Susan

    I don't want to see an atheist US either, but would that be worse than a nation that is dominated by the type of Christianity represented by Gingrich? I see nothing or hear nothing from old Newtie that shows me he's a follower of Christ. It is not for me to judge him and his salvation but just sayin' that if he didn't go around telling the world he was a Christian, I could never tell by his actions.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Mister Earl

      What's so scary about Atheists? As one, I can assure you that we have no intention of preventing you and your kin from worshiping however you like. I've got no problem with freedom of religion.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  12. Colin

    In other news, Newt mentioned a fear that the country would be overrun by a conspiracy of communists and capitalists, evidencing once agian his inability to tell the North Pole from the South Pole.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  13. TommyTT

    An atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? Isn't that like an empty pastry box filled with donuts? I can agree with caring whether our citizens behave in a moral and ethical fashion (although the far right has defined some things as immoral that they shouldn't have). But it's ridiculous to assume that religious believers are inherently moral or that atheists are not. We ALL know people on both sides who bust that stereotype wide open.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  14. Macmantoo

    It's nothing more than scare tactics. This is what the Republicans do to bring out the masses. Back in the 90's it was gay marriages. They had to bring all the religious zealots to stop gay marriages. Now they've "teedoff" the middleclass with the unions in Wisconsin and other states, they know the Democrats are going to get the middle class out to vote next election. So Gingrich is again is trying to scare the religious zealots again by threating Muslims ruling the religions. This guy is about as useful as Sarah Palin is. Both clinging to the 50's way of life.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  15. All Religion Is Evil

    Wow! Sounds great to me. It still surprises me that a man as articulate as Mr. Gingrich could be so truly ignorant. He really needs to spend some time in a public library and get a bit of factual education rather than hanging around congregations of the ignorant, shilling for votes. But, then again, that's what he's all about isn't it?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  16. zip

    When Mr. Gingrich descends into hell, I hope the Devil blocks out a week to give Newt the welcome he deserves.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  17. Phaedrus

    I would certainly not consider radical Islam atheist...I am no fan of any radical religion (Christian or otherwise), but to call another religion atheist is just ignorant.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  18. a real human

    I fear a "christian" United States....

    March 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  19. Free Thinker Seeking Reason

    Shame on Gingrich for constantly pandering to religious conservatives while slandering those who have moved past a non-fact-based belief system. The United States of America was founded as a secular nation, in part by religious men, usually Christians, who recognized that keeping religion out of government was vital to preserving both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. We cannot and must not let current day social conservatives rewrite the history books on this. Plain and simple, our country was not founded as a Christian nation, so don't let revisionists lead you to believe otherwise, whatever your faith / non-faith.

    As for his comments on radical Islam, well, I think almost nobody here wants that, but lumping two such very, very different groups into the same sentence like that is beyond bizarre and makes no sense, just like him.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      exactly. well said.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Mr Phil

      Can I get an Amen???

      March 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Colin

      As to your copmment on cencorship – it is random Any word that has a "dirty word" within it will cause your post to be rejected. For e.g. superst-ition would be unless I used the hyphen. likewise andy word that has s-lut etc. itn it. Hope this helps. Took me a while to sort it oput.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      @ Colin
      Thanks, buddy. I had no idea the censor here was that poorly implemented (no wait, yes I did). I mean, it can't sort out supersti-tion? That's just so lame.

      Thanks again!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Al Bundy

      The word "consti tution" gets censored. Must be a right-wing computer censor.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Helpful Henry

      Here is the whole goofy lot of them: (courtesy of poster, @Reality)

      Once a week WARNING for new commentators:
      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.
      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  20. regertz

    It doesn't surprise that he has ghostwriters to do his few history books given he can't distinguish Islam and Atheism. Did he actually ever teach in class?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • supremeamerican

      he is saying the radical islamists will outsmart and take advantage of the naive atheists. He thinks they are both out to get christianity but not out to get eachother at least not as much as they are out to get christianity.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • SimonGilchrest

      Unacceptable, ignorant and non-factual. America was founded explicitly as a secular republic. You are welcome to be a Christian in America, but the government of this land has never been and never will serve religion or one god over another. Too many have fought and died for this freedom. Gingrich and his ilk are attempting to rewrite history to suit contemporary religious whims. He must fail.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:52 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.