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. Justin

    He completely contradicts himself. How would the United States be both an atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? Gingrich is an idiot, pandering to populist ideas.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  2. The Other Guy

    He's a kook. He ain't getting my vote. Looks like I'm voting for Charlie Sheen this election

    March 29, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  3. PS

    I am fiscal conservative and social liberal. The reason I have never voted republican is because of people like HIM!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Marconi


      I do not vote Republican because of people who will run against him: Palin, Huckabee, Barbour

      March 29, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  4. Wombatish

    Well, I guess depending on what he actually meant it's more of a contradiction (HAH giving him way too much credit), but the god-fearing crowd has certainly pushed it closer to oxymoron territory.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  5. Da King

    I think a lot of these people have been drinking.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  6. Ewe Knobetter

    @BHS, why do you ask God to help us because we might be becoming a Muslim country? Peaceful Muslims worship God, too. You are asking God to take sides? Our religion is better than your religion, God loves us more, go God go!? Did I get that right? You are trying to create an enemy that does not exist. I worry more about hypocrites like Newt more than American Muslims...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • jeff

      lol and i dont think half of them realize that christians and muslims pray to the same god

      March 29, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  7. goat

    Wait, weren't our founding fathers for the freedom of ALL religion? Why would not being a certain religion make someone unAmerican? And where the hell does he assume that the rise is no-religion is linked to radical islam??? Wow... just... wow...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  8. Nomar

    What concerns me the most about comments like Newts is that he starts to create false conclusions
    by to taking two opposed concepts and blurring them together AND THAN spreading the lie to people who have no concept of rational, logical thought. The ones who are believe his BS are lemmings... all for political gain... sad

    March 29, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Nomar wrote: "The ones who are believe his BS are lemmings..."

      Well, I hate to tell you this, but... there are an awful lot of lemmings in this country... They need Lemming-Aid, except that it's probably hopeless...

      Just look at all the idiots who still are convinced that Obama is a Muslim...

      March 29, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Andielly

      Why do you have to have it by Monday? Is there a reason you can't cnocatt the company who holds your loan and pay it back when you actually have the money so you don't have to borrow anything?If you take out a cash advance many times there are fees and no grace period on the interest. You need to talk all of that into account before you take it out.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  9. Wombatish

    Can someone educate Mr. Gingrich on the meaning of the word "Oxymoron"?

    Actually, I think that would be a nice course for a lot of politicians out there.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  10. mike

    This is no surprise. The Republican mission statement is essentially to prevent anyone who doesn't actively promote Christianity from making public policy.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  11. Praveen

    Telling U.S. becoming a secular atheist country dominated by radical islamists appears to be a old trick to scare voters. Let people make their choice of religion. All religions are great! It is not the religion but extreme religious people in any religion that we must be concerned about.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  12. Barlingwood

    umm... im quite surprised noone has commented on the obvious howler Gingrich has just spewed. "An atheist nation dominated by radical islamists". what an awesome nonsensical boogyman combo! "Atheist" is EXACTLY what the radical islamists call US! This is sort of like saying we will become a communist nation dominated by fascists! I guess Gingrich knows the mental level of his potential voters...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  13. paperjihad

    Well, the next presidential election cycle is surely shaping up to be interesting. It's like the GOP has dusted off some decrepit Cold War playbook and decided it's the road to the future. Back to the future anyone?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  14. SJB

    ...and the U.S. fears a christian Gingrich!

    March 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  15. Russ

    Does Newt even know what secular means? How can a nation be secular if it is "dominated" by radical Islamist?

    Republicans, lol

    March 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  16. Tom

    I'm not religious, but their are plenty of uneducated people in this country that could benefit from religion if they refuse a decent education for themselves. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating either way, but let's face it. Some people are just screwed, and they need all the help they can get. If you can't get with the program, go with god. At least that will make them think twice before they do stupid stuff to others.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Marconi

      Yes, you are. You are advocating religion as an alternative to persistence in getting an education

      March 29, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • sharoom

      But that doesn't stop the stupid stuff being done to others. To me, there's nothing scarier than someone who gets some irrational idea into their head and then acting on it because they believe it is God's will.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  17. Michele

    Oh, for goodness sake. We're not going to vote for you even if you go out on this athesiest extreme. The "angries" and Sarah Palin account for at least 20 percent event if they're this silly.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  18. BHS

    Gingrich doesn't know what he's talking about. Isn't he paying attention to anything. American isn't becoming an Atheist country, it's becoming a muslim country. God help us!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  19. Jude

    i cannot imagine hagee and gingrick keeping a straight face when they are alone. the joke is on their following and they are laughing all the way to the bank. like barnum and baliley said ...and yes the crowd at this side show circus is no different than that you would see in some backwoods gullible small town.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  20. Calvin Hobbes


    March 29, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • svi

      So say we all.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:52 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.