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. KindaAmused

    I am sure somewhere in the pages and pages of comments, someone has said what I am about to:

    Newt is attacking Muslims as not being godly. However, the god of Islam is the Abrahamic God. You know: Yahweh. God. Jesus' daddy. They even believe in Jesus as a major prophet touched directly by Allah/God/Yahweh.

    Oh, and as so many others have pointed out, you cannot have a secular/atheist/radical Islam nation all at once. But he was tossing all the words into the blender to feed his sheeple. He converted to Catholicism?? If that makes him patriotic, well, that just makes me happier I gave up going to Mass a long time ago.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  2. J

    who cares what he thinks, oops, he thinks, don't think so

    March 29, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  3. Zana

    That headline makes no sense. Radical Islamists believe very strongly in a DIFFERENT god. Atheists don't believe in ANY god.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  4. Luked

    Are the grand kids from descended from his first wife or his second?

    Am I not mistaken, but don't atheists think all religions are silly? I mean, is Islam less silly that Christianity these days? Would atheists tolerate Islam more. Oh, wait... forgot, atheists aren't the people killing other people because of differences in invisible best friends. It's the people who HAVE invisible best friends who are killing each other. Didn't their invisible best friends say something like, "Thou shalt not kill?" And "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Or your congressional intern or communications person or office manager or whatever Newt got himself into.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  5. LoneZero

    Gingrich is a hypocrite of the highest order, claiming he was for family values while breaking the sancti-ty of marriage (even worse his wife was dying of cancer in a hospital bed at the time he cheated on her). With a "Do as I say not as I do" att.itude.

    He flip flops, he was for a no fly zone, Obama has a no fly zone initiated now he is against it.He Criticized Obama For Not Intervening In Libya, Obama does (smartly I may add, a coalition with the US as a supporting role) Now he is against that.

    Just when I thought I've seen it all, now '"A secular atheist country, potentially dominated by radical Islamists”

    How is that even possible? How can you have an Atheist country dominated and ruled by a a single religion? Isn't that a theocracy? he is a fear monger, spewing lies and hatred, poor family values, a flip flopper and apparently doesn't know the difference between Atheist (without god = no religion) and a religion.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • James

      You see this is how it works in his mind.

      1. Islam=bad
      2. Atheism=bad
      3. a=b, b=c, so a=c
      4. Islam=Atheism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 29, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  6. Jack

    Isn't a muslim athiest an oxymoron? Isn't Newt a moron? Yep, X2.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  7. SDN

    "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists". Might want your staff to explain the problem with that statement, Newt. Uh, never mind. Oh, and by the way, Webster tells me that "newt" is, among other no less complimentary meanings, a description for a "mythical lizard". Might be useful in a campaign slogan or banner...or not.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  8. john kemps

    Do as I say, not as I do. The GOP mantra.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  9. vincent perry

    Jesus is a fraud!

    March 29, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  10. Exatheist Reverend

    Though I agree with nothing Mr. Gingrich said, his logic is a bit confusing. An Islamicist America would not be an atheist country. Islamicists believe in God. Their may be no significant representation of Christianity in the US, according to his grossly irresponsible fear-mongering logic. Though I'm no longer an atheist, and will soon be ordained in a main-stream Protestant denomiation, I still don't believe in the version of God, Mr. Gingrich and other politically conservative right wingers and tea partiers believe in. I will always be an atheist to their view of an exclusivist God.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • James

      I figured it out.

      He doesn't believe Islam is a religion, it makes perfect sense!

      March 29, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  11. John

    Found an article in some 2008 mag where he's fluffing science and space exploration. Seems to me any politicain (Especially good ol Newt) will say, do, grovel and lie just to get elected. My impression of this man is he only wants to seal the deal. I say we have a performanced based political system that sheds dead weight and rewards good performance... the reward? You get to stay in office. I know, ranting idiot ranting but what passes for politics these days is a joke.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • MizFurball

      You have my vote.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  12. Stephen Weiberg

    What is wrong with an Atheist United States? It was suppose to be free from religious bias to being with.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  13. MizFurball

    You can be either a secular atheist OR a radical Islamic - NOT both.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  14. Antonio

    Atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? Has he gotten into drugs or something?

    March 29, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • James

      No he just doesn't have enough money for his medication.

      Medicare doesn't have a large enough budget, but he wouldn't like it if they got a larger one.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • NJ Bob

      No, he's just a walking, talking cartoon figure.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  15. joe

    What? Muslims kill Atheists... how is this new country possible? Btw... I can't wait until religion dies.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • MizFurball

      I'm with you, Joe.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  16. Ed Becker

    This was founded and will always be a Christian Nation. This despite the media overlaod to the otherwise.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • joe

      Americans also used to burn anyone considered a witch. I hope that society can progress past ancient rituals and beliefs.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Texagg

      While Christianity is all well and good, our government MUST stay secular. It was created secular and will hopefully always be that way.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • MizFurball

      This country was founded on FREEDOM of religion - not Christianity. Go read your history. Some of the founders were atheists.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Slash

      You might be surprised (since you're a history failure) that the United States Senate unanimously passed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797, stating that "as the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries".

      Yeah, I'm sure that's just media spin too.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  17. Mike

    So.... if the country's dominated by islamic fundamentalists, that doesn't make is secular anymore does it? Newt is just another cartoon GOP candidate, coming up with a crock of s**t to stir up racist and religious fears. He just love pushing the big red buttons to get people going.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  18. MS

    What a coincidence! I fear a theocratic country.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  19. ComeAgainBaltoMD

    oh Newtie, you are such an alarmist!!!! Aside from flapping your mouth I suppose you're selling books, dvd's or Christian-self-preservation-kits and collecting mo-money for your campaign again this time?

    March 29, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  20. oneula

    He converted to be a Catholic? I thought he liked multiple women, not little boys, but he is a republican leader, and they and evangelical leaders often seem to get caught with boys.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:13 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.