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. tim d

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” - um....are radical islamists atheists????? get a grip, Newt.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  2. Reba Zatz

    AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Man, I needed a good laugh. Thanks Newt.

    In all seriousness though, please do whatever you can to make sure that this man does NOT make it to the White House. I'll take a secular nation over a country stuck in the dark ages any day.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  3. Brian

    If Atheists are in control, the US will run better than ever.....no BS, no religous agendas and no false prophets like Gingrich. We can develope stem cell research to its fullest, medical technology and our culture without religous stigma and constraints......and women can be truly mans equal, without religion telling them otherwise....good times indeed...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  4. Red79

    Lolwut? I mean really, Republicans. Is this all you guys have to bring to the table in 2012. Seems like they are taking the Democrat's route in 04 with Kerry. At least Kerry wasn't insane.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  5. d

    well, i agree with the majority of you that say that gingrich was overstating things a bit, but i also don't think that pointing out the fact that islamization of this country IS happening and IS a threat to our security can be fairly swept aside as nothing but "fear mongering". if there's something to be legitimately afraid of and someone steps up and says it...is it fear mongering? nope. but people with the courage to step up and say unpopular things get accused of lots of different things...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • Jim

      You would have fit right in with McCarthy... Where Islamization (not actually a word) happening? Just because Muslims live here does not mean that we are in danger of this becoming an Islamic nation. Where do you people come from? Just because someone fear mongers does not mean they are brave or right.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • leogorky

      How do you teabaggers live with your constant paranoia? You seem to see conspiracies around every corner. A good therapist could help you. Get on some meds and stop listening to liars. INVESTIGATE AND THINK FOR YOURSELF FOR A CHANGE..GEEZ!

      March 29, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  6. Hunter Cares

    Okay, now Newt, listen to Hunter. I'll speak slowly. It can't be a secular atheist country if it's dominated by Islamists. Think about it. Think about it. Come on Newt, you can do this. Thiiiiiiinkkk.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  7. Alram

    God also said....thou shall not commit adultery.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  8. Ash

    The more secular a nation is, the higher it ranks in standard of living, quality of life, health, literacy, etc. A secular nation is exactly what America needs to become in order to progress into the future.

    I am an atheist. While I don't find his comments insulting, I do find them ignorant and, as for his "atheist radical Islamist" comment, contradictory. You can't have a secular radical Islamist country.

    And the irony? He wants America to become exactly what he says he's against – a nation of anti-science, anti-intellectual extremists. Sad.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  9. Public Enemy Number 2

    Someone needs to beat some common sense into this man. Seriously, secular atheist Muslims? Why not throw "Marxist" in there too, since we're throwing around "scary" words? Not to mention he oxymoron that is "secular atheist Muslims." Think about it: How many Muslims that you know who are atheists?

    I can't believe you conservatives buy his drivel.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  10. Alram

    The United States an atheist country? Who said that Gingrich? Oh well, we should not pay attention.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  11. JWG

    I could see it. Atheists are largely indifferent, while radicals are the polar opposite. The stronger group will take charge. People will laugh at Gingrich as a way of denial, but I can see the possibility of Gingrich's prediction coming true. Thankfully, I will likely be dead before it gets that bad.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  12. dexter vandango

    What B.S. Newt is banking on there being no Old Testament madman in Heaven who will cast him down into eternal fire and torment for his repeated adulteries. Hypocrite – thy name is Republican.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • JWG

      I know a phrase, "A sucker is born every minute." Any person that thinks the Democrats are any different from the Republicans is just another sucker.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • Jim

      That is every right wingers answer to every criticism... Democrats are the same blah blah blah... but they are not... not really. I think the overall goals of the Democrats are completely different to Republicans... and lately the insanity level is far lower. Also, it will have to be one or the other... either Atheist or a radical Islamic state... actually there is another option... it could be a Radical Christian state. Fortunately, most people still seem to prefer the secular state that does not get involved in religion (sort of anyway) and is largely not forcing any religion down our throats. Lastly, I do not need to be told how to live a moral life by Newt... he is hardly a credible voice on the subject.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • leogorky

      JWG: you couldn't be more wrong. For one thing, we tend to think for ourselves. Do you think I believe everything a democratic politician tells me...of course not! But, that seems to be your course. Also, democrats don't seem to hate everyone like your party does. They don't want to legislate specifically to hurt some group they don't agree with. We are not in the pockets of big business who basically paid for the teaparty fascists to get elected to do their bidding. And, I don't necessarily think that all republicans are like you and Gingrich...there is something inherently wrong about painting a whole group with one brush. Didn't your mother ever teach you that? My democratic mother did.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  13. Dave

    Having a native american heritage as part of my lineage, I am always amused when religious zealots claim that this nation was founded on "Christian values." For the most part, this nation was founded on deceit, lies, theft and outright genocide.
    As for Atheism running the country, if, as he says, radical Islamists will dominate the country in th future, then he has nothing to worry about. It will still be a religious nation.....just not the religion he envisioned.
    Personally, I'd be glad if religion died out, then mankind could really advance.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  14. ThisGuy

    And how exactly does this radical Islam atheist country come about?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  15. ToM e BoI

    “...a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamist,”
    HaHa! I love how he's trying to associate us Atheists with a radical extremist group.
    It makes perfect sense, when you're not required to think for yourselves, and just take what you're told on "blind faith"...

    March 29, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  16. Joe citizen abroad

    Ummm...Newt, if it's a country dominated by radical Islamists, then it wouldn't be an atheist country. It'd just be run by a different group of religious fanatics than the one you were addressing.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  17. Fred Barnett

    Someone should uncork the miserable gasbag so that we can watch him fly around the room. FFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTTTTT........

    March 29, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • jimbo, st. louis mo

      He's been full of hot air for a long time. Gotta release some of that pressure.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  18. Ironcially I am asking Heaven to help us

    Please please anyone reading this, please campain against this man. His hope is to turn america into an army of mindless workers, beholden to corporations and religion to push through anything he sees fit. American can lead the world still in the modern age of technology, we cannot go back to medival times after coming so far. Hagee and Gingrich are dangerous people, don't let them get control of the most powerful military in the world. Only suffering will come from their maddness.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  19. svann

    Translation: By combining christian fears of losing control to atheists and also to any other religion (Islam is current boogyman), Gingrich hopes to collect christian support for his presidency.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  20. Graham

    Wouldn't an aethist country dominated by radical islamists be somewhat contradictory? Noooo? Oh, i'm sorry Newt, i'll stop with the logic...i know that's never been your strong point.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • joseph Santini

      Gingrish is an IDIOT, opportunist thief. He will never get ellected.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Shane

      I was thinking the exact same thing

      March 29, 2011 at 1:53 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.