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. The_Mick

    The religious right's support of devils and family-wreckers like Gingrich is the reason many turn from religion!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  2. Will

    I cannot help but believe he is right. The lessons of history tell us so. For example, the Quakers settlement in North America was wonderful for a time, they were at peace with everyone because the tolerated everyone. Soon however they had mass amounts of Germanic faiths, and others move in, and they soon became the minority. Think about it, how many Quakers do you know?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • John

      I doubt Newt is right about anything. But if he is on this, it must be punishment by the almighty for the right constantly using his name in vain.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  3. GreyMatter

    Ok, he has lost it here. How can you be an Atheist state and be a radical Islamist? Playing into the fear factor and telling people what they want to hear makes for a great political campaign. People must be really deluded to vote for a guy like this.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  4. FloridaDave

    I fear a nation full of Newts dominated by radical Tea Bags!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  5. Floyd

    Okay... so he's afraid of an athiest country... ruled by an extremist branch of a religion... umm.... Newt... can you go 1 sentance without contradicting yourself?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  6. icharliem

    his name fits him ... living under a rock of ignorance ... even about the our founding fathers ... hey newt ... read some history ... you're emerging as a reflection of palin and bachman ... by the way, many of the founding fathers were "deists" (look it up newt ... they weren't interested in establishing a "religious" nation as they had had enough and wanted to go beyond of such narrow views and understanding ... guess what, newt ... some people in their day called them atheists ... hmmm ...

    March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  7. Moesan

    Maybe someone should clue this half whit Gingrich that a person can not be an atheist and a muslim at the same time. Obviously Ginggrich does not know what he is talking about again and again and again. What a clutz.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  8. Dan

    He's another religious nut who just lost my vote.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • FloridaDave

      You're kidding right? You would've voted for this buffoon before this comment?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  9. Kate

    Ok, first of all – America is in danger of becoming atheist/Islamic?? Utter crap. I'm living in London right now and I can tell you the UK is the one in danger of becoming "atheist and Islamic" if any country is. Many people here are fed up with Christianity, and the largest immigrant group consists of people from Islamic countries. But funnily enough, the UK is doing pretty fine as far as countries go. Imagine that, Mr. Gingrich.

    Second of all, how is being a devout Christian or Catholic "proof of his undying patriotism"?? Seriously? This country was never established as a Christian country and there is a separation of church and state. So, how being a Christian makes one a more patriotic American than someone who is not, I'll never understand. Christians seem to have this idea that all non-Christians are heathens without morals. I thought we were living in the 21st century, not the Crusades. Seems Mr. Gingrich thinks otherwise.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • John

      Newt is a fat disgusting fear mongering hypocrite and if there is a hell he surely has made a reservation for himself there right next to Satan himself.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Charlie

      The point Mr. Gingrich was trying to make is that the influx of islam and the lack of christians is starting to become a problem in the USA. islam and the spread of it in many countries has become a problem because , unfortunately where there is islam, there is no room for any other religions. Just ask France how its going over there in their heavely populated islamic areas.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  10. Dan

    It is laughable how people quote made-up books to make a point.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  11. person

    What is he doing he is not even a slightly nice person? he didn't even wave to us when we were in the capitol building many years ago. But ohhhhhhh he says hello to everyone when he is on camera or when he has politics to do. Seriously idk if we become an atheiest place, least we will have ethics! Better then a talking snake or um people who think people walked on water.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  12. Chris

    The word atheist means non religious....its only a group because they label.
    Theres no way you can have an atheist country with Muslims. Just fear mongering at its best.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  13. sasss31

    ATHEISM AND ISLAM DO NOT GO HAND IN HAND!!! NATURALLY, IF WE BECOME MORE EDUCATED AND KNOWLEDGABLE IN THE FIELDS OF SCIENCE AND MATH, MORE ATHEISTS WILL NATURALLY COME. WHY?? BECAUSE OF EDUCATION. ONCE SOMEONE IS EDUCATED ABOUT BASIC PHYSICS AND THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE, YOU REALIZE THAT A CREATOR IS NO LONGER NECESSARY. It's no surprise our European counterparts are ahead of us in education, science, and math. For example, in the U.K., 25% of the population is openly atheist. It is a beautiful thing that they value logic, evidence, rationality, and a basic level of education in physics, the sciences, and math.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • FloridaDave

      So, then, how many are still in the closet?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Renny

      There are stranger things in heaven and earth sasss31, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  14. 2tired2care

    Funny how a clown who's been married not once, not twice, but three times talks soooo much about being christian. What a joke.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  15. FloridaDave

    Since when are Islamists atheists?

    March 29, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  16. Good Atheist

    He needs to pick a fear, atheists OR radicals. I am personally offended he lumped us together. Any religion teaches you to hate someone else. So, at least he's being a good christian. Keep your adult version of santa claus to yourself.

    – "I'd join a church, but I'm allergic to nuts."

    March 29, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • redragon

      I needed that laugh this morning. Thank you!

      March 29, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • The Half Baked Lunatic

      – "I wanted to be a priest, but I didn't have enough experience molesting children"

      March 29, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  17. Me

    Newt is so obviously making a play for the religious freaks. Once a phoney always a phoney!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  18. Daniel

    So wait ... Gingrich is afraid that if America moves away from fervent, blind religiosity, America's suddenly going to be ruled by fervent, blind religiosity? Oww ... my brains!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Lincoln Place

      @Daniel: Perfect! Thanks!

      March 29, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  19. sasss31

    One more thing: the biggest lies people claim is that "our founding fathers were Christinas"; far from it. They consists mostly of deists but had such atheists as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine was very nearly one too. To claim our foundation is based on "Christianity" in that we should impose it on society is nonsense, and a flat out lie.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Chris

      They've been saying that for awhile. Its insane that people like this clown are allowed to say such insane things without being called out.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Renny

      A lot of the founding fathers were not athiests as some believe, but they were Masons.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • John


      March 29, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Chuck

      @sasss31: Well said.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • FloridaDave

      Masons sounds like Muslims or Morons. I get the picture.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  20. Renny

    I'm not a big fan of Newt's, and I don't think he said it well, but unfortunately he is correct. This country seems to be headed for a majority population of atheists and islamists. All devout islamists are radical. Also I'm not a huge fan of strictly organized christianity. Though I believe the bible is a pretty good guide book on how to live a decent life, as long as you look at it as a book of metaphors rather than strict facts.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • drupalthorn100

      Some of the very same metaphors Newt himself ignored day in and day out.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Walker

      All devout Islamists are NOT radical any more that all devout Christians are radical. But there certainly are dangerous radicals in both religions. Why fear atheists? There is absolutely NOTHING inherent in an atheist to cause fear! Are you just afraid that something thinks differently than you? If so, that either makes you paranoid or a bigot or possibly both.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • SCOTO

      The problem we have with your suggestion is that people like Gingrich cherry pick what they decide is a metaphor and what is a fact to suit whatever is best for them

      March 29, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • Lincoln Place

      "All devout islamists are radical"??? Why limit it to Islamists? Aren't all devout Evangelicals radical? They want to force their view of a proper way to live on all of us, just like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the mullahs in Iran. Any religion, when forced on others against their will, is radical. I fear a country of fundamental Christianity represented by Newt's latest spew as much as I fear radical Islam.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Nonayo

      Are you afraid of people who might read similar moral teachings from the Tao Te Ching, or anything Buddhist? They're atheists. Are they immoral people who will destroy America? There's more to the world than America and the New Testament.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • A. Goodwin

      Atheism isn't about religion. It's about belief in God, or lack thereof. Non belief in God has existed for as long as belief in God has existed. I consider myself agnostic. After years of having religion forced upon me by my parents and my inner self telling me that this seemed to be made up – this is who I am and I am a good AMERICAN. That's right – a good AMERICAN (despite what the GOP wants to shove down your throats...athiesm or being agnostic doesn't mean we're all sinners!). I work full-time and support my husband and family. My husband works for Child and Family Services and has more compassion in his heart than most Christians! We volunteer our time at a parent-run daycare (My husband is also on the Board) and we also co-facilitate an epilepsy support group. We are good AMERICANS. The lack of religion for me frees my mind so that I can think for myself...find answers for myself...and I try not to find the answers by wringing them out from some old, obscure scribblings.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • starkadhr

      Atheists? He fears a fears people that don't worship things you can't see or fashion stick and stones into idols for adulation? He feels that a person that can make it through life without needing a supreme being to blame all of life's ills on or run to for special favors is abnormal? He believes that people that use their belief in god to kill other humans is the better way to live? I look back at what the Christians have done for mankind ... the inquisition, subjugation of the indigenous peoples of South America, Africa and Asia... and all in the name of god. The souther baptists that go to church every sunday and then brutalized the blacks. Yes sir, thats the America we all want. Gun toting republican intolerant religious anarchists, ready to blame others for the mess they created (and democrats are no better).

      March 29, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • vegamaco

      The country is heading in a way that shows that people are opening their eyes and really looking at the danger of mixing church and state. religion has no place in poitics and this country has the right to evolve, we cant be held hostage to the church, we can not ask for freedom of choice and then critize the people who choose no religion, that's the mere definition of hiprocracy.

      March 29, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Renny

      @vegamaco, dangers of mixing church and state? Yes, in that part I agree. What do you think Islamic majorities do in the country they rule? They use their "church" to rule the state. Name an Islamic majority country where there is any sort of separation between the government and religion. Can't name one can you?

      March 29, 2011 at 8:33 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.