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. Rock God

    Are all the Republicans this stupid or just the ones that want to be president?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  2. Harry Tick

    I don't think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is going to let any things get too out of hand, Newt. Settle down...

    March 29, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  3. Salek_ju

    Im same opinion about this matter.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  4. KSABQ

    This man has either totally lost his mind, or the depths of his cynical fear-mongering are bottomless. Possibly both.

    It's a shame this kind of bizarre paranoid junk actually resonates with many American "Christians" (I use the term loosely) and they may actually vote for someone who spews this kind of rubbish because they've been fed so much fear and racism by the Lunatic Right.

    Remember the Know-Nothing party? The great Masonic conspiracy that was supposed to destroy our country? This is the same thing, with Islamic radicals replacing the evil Masons for modern audiences. It's just the Illuminati scare all over again, this time wearing turbans. Absolute tripe, every word of it.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  5. Gingorilla

    He thinks that the country is going to be run by Atheists and Muslims? Well, at least the two groups will be getting along and working together. Then, if only they could get the Christians on board, we might have ourselves a country! I like this plan. A melting pot, as our fore fathers put it... Oh wait, it's already a melting pot. Some people just haven't accepted it yet.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  6. Hussain

    HeavenSent – Our founding fathers knew there would ignoramuses like you . That is why the USA *IS* a secular society. It says it right on the great seal, “Novus Ordo Seclorum,“ which is latin for “A new Secular Order.“

    March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  7. thack

    Even christians can't be this dumb, can they?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  8. Seer

    If this country becomes secular, it will be the fault of the Christians, who cannot seem to practice what they teach. In Iran, the youth are staying away from mosques because they know the Imams will try to recruit them for paramilitary/terrorist actions that will result in their being killed. Here, the youth need to stay out of "Christian" churches because they will be recruited into the ranks of those who fear their own intellect (since it can see through the churches' hypocrisy), revile science (since it punches a hole in the churches' unsupportable cosmology of nonsense), and reject the very heart of love that Christ taught his followers to cultivate, in their pell-mell drive to spread hatred of everyone unlike them including gays, muslims, women, liberals, and children (who have to be controlled like criminals.)

    March 29, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  9. scott

    I'm Athiest; and Newt got me; I was planning on taking over the country with my Islamic Brothers; guess I am back to the drawing board...

    March 29, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • scott

      I'm so Atheist, I can't even spell it after LOOKING it up to be sure... Arggg!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • thack

      May I join your radical atheist group. Pleaseeee.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  10. Ryan

    Question #1: How can our society be secular, yet dominated by Islam? I'm a conservative, but come on, this guy is a moron.
    Question #2: Isn't the US government supposed to be secular (I.E. the separation of church and state)?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  11. JEDP

    The US government IS secular. It's the people who are religious. How can no one see this? Many of the founding fathers led secular lives. Many of them didn't. But they all agreed upon a secular government. This politician is just attempting to gain Christian votes.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  12. TheNumber

    I wonder if Newt is eyeballin' a nod from the WBC?

    March 29, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  13. Reinhold Messner

    Gingrich's paradoxical fear of an atheist country dominated by radical Islamists is more asinine than when he attributed his multiple affairs to his patriotism rather than his infidelity.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:42 am |
  14. chris

    ahahahahahahaha.......ahahahahahahahah. Stupidest thing i've read all day.

    Should read: United States fears 'president Gingrich', and worry about a future dominated by radical christians.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  15. path matters

    The republican leadership isn't afraid of atheists. They are atheists. They just claim Christianity as a vote obtaining power. They are only possibly in line with actual Christian philosophy, as reflected in the Bible, on two issues: abortion and gay rights. It's these two issues on which the Republicans capitalize to gain Christian support in Middle America, because these two issues are strong in the voters they sway. On all other issues, the GOP is down right satanic, absolutely absent of any God. The voters that listen to the far right remain mostly ignorant of the impact of these other policies and fail to see how they are actually anti-Christian.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:39 am |
  16. Benn

    Gingrich, in mentioning atheism and Islam in the same sentence, in a speech made in a church, is clearly engaged in blatant fear-mongering. It's either that or he's really is stupid.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:38 am |

    I would be absolutely thrilled if the United States became a country of Atheist's! Unlike the Christians and Jews, we would actually be able to work with Muslims without religion getting in the way. If this half of Gingrich's hypothetical were to come true, the U.S. would be a less hate filled, less naive, more intelligent, and all around safer place. The other half of his quote, however, is pure lunacy.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Chris

      Hear, hear!

      March 29, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Asimov

      Sadly we're at least a hundred years away from that becoming reality. Kinda makes me wish I was born 150 years in the future... sigh.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • Magic

      I'm all for it; but remember, it will be a huge undertaking - teaching these people (some are really dim) to *think* ... and to understand that the reason for decent, moral behavior is not some pie-in-the-sky eternal bliss for being 'good', and eternal fire for being 'bad'.

      Religion, for all of its ills, does keep some of them in line... not all, as is shown in the prison population, but a goodly number.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  18. mac

    Maybe an atheist would take care of things in the here and now a lot better than someone whose waiting for some supernatural being to come and straighten out the mess he's made.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  19. Livingstone

    This is such a STUPID remark by Gingrich. "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists".
    A radical islamist CANNOT be an atheist. Islam is a religion in which Alah is revered as God. An atheist DOES NOT believe in God and so Athesim and Islam are diametrically opposed to each other. Gingrich is a fool. i sthis the best person the Repugs have for 2012? If this is, I fear for the country.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • 666

      There is also Palin.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  20. Steven

    Let me see if I have this straight: Old Newt is worried that America will become an atheistic country, yet dominated by Islamic extremists? He's saying that a religion will convert this country to atheism? Does this bloated windbag even know what atheism even means? Oh, he;s probably using the old tried and true political tactic of scare tactics...scare the people into submission and nature will take its course.
    Newt, do us all a favor and shut the hell up! Your opinions mean nothing in the realm of an intelligent, rational discourse, you use scare tactics to garner votes, you are prejudicial, mis-informed, you encourage the same in others, and you know nothing about the office for which you are seeking. So, why don't you crawl back into whatever hole you came from (probably Hell), and shut up?!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • kevin

      Steven, I couldn't have said it better. What the hell is Newt talking about? He will never be president I have more faith in the people of the US, I should say, a majority of the US. 🙂

      March 29, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Edwin

      I agree with both of you. This statement is just plain wrong: an atheist country is run by atheists, not religious extremists. I do not believe we will become either of these myself, but it is truly impossible for us to become both.

      Yet I do know some people who think this way... it saddens me that they so fear people who are different that they refuse to even notice obvious logical flaws...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Rudy Bauer

      Steven, since when has intelligent discourse meant a damn thing in US politics, especially on the right?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:42 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.