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. Crash Master

    Man, I'm so looking forward for the next presidential elections.

    With the likes of Newt and Palin, we will be getting more than our fair share of laughs. Put the whole damn election on Comedy Central. Whoo hoo .. laughs for everybody

    "..atheist .. Islamists ...."

    That doesn't make one bit of sense, Newt.

    You need to CHOOSE your boogieman .. mixing incompatible ones up make you look like a drooling, blithering, moron; and you're not one of those, are ya, pal?

    Whatever you do, Newt, please run for president and get Palin to run as well.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • S.R.

      @Crash Master I would look forward to it too, if I wasn't so scared of one of these nut jobs actually winning.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • thack

      Good point. It's sure to be a laugh-a-thon. Our country's politics have become the joke of the world.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  2. Seth

    How does Newt propose to stop this dystopia from coming to be? Require that all Americans be Christians? Is he insane? Well, that's it, the Republican Party is dead. Good riddance.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  3. Dan

    You have to love how 99% of the comments on any politically-themed article are made by shallow, self-serving morons.

    If someone wants to be an atheist, catholic, muslim, witch, or voodoo priest...let them. Worry about yourself and leave everyone else alone. Just because you are something doesn't make it the only right choice. Keep religion out of politics, on all levels.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  4. Kenobe

    Newsflash for Newt: This IS a secular country and has always been. That was the plan of the founding fathers.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  5. S.R.

    I'd rather have a country dominated by Atheists than run by a radical person of any religion. I also would prefer not to have a president named New, who cheated on his wife because he was "so caught up by patriotism". What a joke. Hey Newt, newsflash: Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the Koran. He read it cover to cover. Idiots like this make me sad to call myself an American. I would hope that no one agrees with him, but sadly there are always dull tools in every shed.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:47 am |
  6. phogan

    dem·a·gogue/ˈdeməˌgäg/Noun 1. A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

    Someone should help him with the word atheist too, he is saying that the country will be a country that doesn't believe in God dominated by Islamist (who actually do believe in God)? Gingrich is followiing the Palin style of buzz word jibberish....Obama must be happy with the opposition thus far....

    March 29, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  7. Jeankie

    After reading these comments, I love America a little more. LOL

    March 29, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  8. Zeus

    Just another candidate that I now know with certainty I can't possibly vote for.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  9. jdoe

    For one thing, secular is not the same as atheist. Secular is religion-neutral, not anti-religion. And neither is the same as Islamist. A secular atheist Islamist country? How in the world did Gingrich manage to conflate them together? Amazing.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  10. Forgetmeknot

    Gingrich has got it all wrong. Once not only the US but the world becomes truly atheist, practicing religion will be like practicing witchcraft used to be–you get caught, you get burned at the stake. Religion will be a thoughtcrime punishable by death, the way it should be.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  11. msladydeborah

    The idea of people like Newt running the nation scares me!

    March 29, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  12. Frederica

    Atheist America = Soviet Union + hedonism.
    Nothing new, just worse than any country in existence.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  13. Jonna

    Newt is a moron–that's obvious. Islamic atheists...really? More examples of morons: people who think this country was founded by Christians to be a Christian country–read a book, would ya? Most of them were deists!!! (Besides, if that were the case, what do you think about slave-owning Christians? That they found the err of their ways, prayed for forgiveness, and will have fellowship with them in heaven?) Another example of a moron=one who thinks a 'Christian' has a better moral compass and will make better decisions based on that moral superiority than an Atheist. Have you ever heard of Adolf Hitler, Annie? He thought his purpose was in line with the Almighty–not particularly a religious man, but he often spoke of your God. Put Mein Kampf on your list of suggested reading. An American history book might not hurt either.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:26 am |
  14. 19random35

    The modern religions of today, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., are no more valid than largely extinct religions like those of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, or of the Mayans or Aztecs. People used to sincerely belive in Zeus or Ares or Jupiter or Poseidon. The Egyptians had Ra, Osiris, Seth, etc. The Norse had Thor, Loki, Odin. No one really takes those religions seriously today. But they were popular for 100's or 1000's of years.

    As society advances and the general population becomes more and more educated, religion will become seen as obsolete and the religions of today will be taken no more seriously than ancient religions.

    There is a lot of good philosophy to be had from religions, about loving thy neighbor, and the golden rule, etc. But as science advances it becomes more and more clear how inadequate religion is at explaining the origins or laws of the universe. Of course I think people should be free to believe whatever they want, whether its real or not.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:24 am |
  15. Nathan

    I fear a "Gingrich" America

    March 29, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  16. leecat

    And I'm scared that foaming-at-the-mouth, war-mongering 'Christian' religious nuts will run the country, waving their magic book of fairy-tales and screaming about all the things we should be scared of. Oh, wait. Too late.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:22 am |
  17. AndyF

    So serving your wife divorce papers while she is in the hospital exemplifies the morals of a religion? Whatever religion he follows is obviously one for deceivers, adulterers, outright liars. Not sure he has much ground to argue against an atheist state after the religious failure that defines Gingrinch.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:22 am |
  18. Tony D

    Gingrich is a legend in his own mind...he thinks we are so stupid as to believe his insane rantings of fear and boogey men....I think the USA will do just fine without the likes of him running the show....he is more of a dictator type...

    March 29, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  19. Langdon Alger

    See, this is why we need minimum mental capacity requirements before allowing anyone to be involved in politics, from voters to politicians. We have too many nutjobs trying to decide our collective future.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  20. A Ratinalist

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” That's not even a coherent thought. Pandering a fear-mongering taken to such and extreme it doesn't even make logical sense.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • pam

      i agree. america is not run or owned by americans anymore. get your heads out of the clouds..i think people that don't believe this can happen need to get on meds themselves or better yet, go to church....we need to wake up and start taking care of our own people that are starving instead of giving it away to eveyone else...do you really think these other countries are going to feed the americans as we do all the other countries.....they are laughing at us at how stupid we are letting everyone take over our country....people in america say that is ok to do anything when it is not....i am sick of hearing press 1 for spanish....when you come to OUR country, you need to speak english....if you can't, go home after your visit....AMERICA'S DOWNFALL STARTED WHEN WE TOOK THE BIBLE OUT OF SCHOOL......this country was founded on GOD and country.....all you hear is you can't speak about GOD or you can't pray in school...or take down any reference to GOD by all the nonbelievers and our politicians are leting it happen.....however, what is the first thing NONBELIEVERS do when there is a crisis? we need to pray, that's what.....well, if you turn your back on GOD don't expect him to be there always.....so, if you think we can't be taken over by atheists and islam think again....ANNIE, god bless you....it is wonderful to see someone who will stand up as i will.......america better repent before it is too late.....blasphemy is the only non-forgiveable sin according to the bible....i pray for all of you non believers....God will help you if you let him.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:30 am |
    • Forgetmeknot

      @pam: What is the first thing NONBELIEVERS of MYTHOLOGY do when there is a crisis? Well, most of us take action rather than drop to our knees like slaves to pray to the invisible sky daddy for protection. Seriously, by the time you're done praying I've already reloaded five times.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:44 am |
    • some body

      Speaking of irrational incoherent thought processes.... see above reply...

      March 29, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • some body

      (I'm referring to sPam)

      March 29, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • Anthony

      Pam, Religion is something that is not needed any more. Besides this country was founded to be secular in general so people could choose to practice what ever religion they wanted. Personally I think religion should go away as it is the root of most of the violence and problems in this world.

      Newt Gingrich a is a moron. First off if a country is ruled by a radical religious person that does not make the country atheist. Besides a country could still be atheist even if ruled by someone who was super religious.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • jimraytwn

      @ Pam

      The only shools that have contiually had bibles in them are parochial schools. You have a bad premise as does Newt the frog. I agree with rationalist. a definition of aetheism is the absense of religion. We need not agree with nor accept Radical Islamists, but to call them atheists is a fallacy.

      Now, Pam, since you and olde Newt there have seen fit to catagorize the decline of the nation on a decline of religion, I would like to introduce another wrinkle; the replacement of religion by a worship of the almighty dollar. I am a devout follower of the doctrine that the love of money is the root of all evil. I am content in my worship of god. I have done my best to live a godly life and to raise my children to do the same. If everyone did this, theoretically, we would all be godly as would our chidren's children for generations to come.

      However, greed and avarice have crept into our universe, and that avarice is fueled by a small segment of our population that desires monopoly of our resources. This segment has created an environment where, instead of passing on the fruits of their labor in the form of philanthropical disbursement, they have, instead, opted to use their wealth solely to acquire more. I blame the ills of the nation on a select few.

      We no longer have those people within our populace who are willing to use their wealth tounderwrite the rejuvanition or creation of the national infastruucture or to save entire industries from ruin to shore up a lagging economy.

      March 29, 2011 at 6:18 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.