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. CT

    Mr Gingrich if that's true (which Muslims are not atheists,duh) it will be people like you who are at fault. You have taken Jesus Christs message and perverted it! God is NOT American. He is also not a Republican. He wants us to love one another. He cares about all nations, all races, all genders and yes even people of other religions. His message is one of inclusion, tolerance and fairness. When you stand before Him I hope you have an explaination for your use of religion for political gain!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  2. whatevernyc

    Newt is fear mongering and trying to whitewash his hypocrisy, a good christian trait it seems. This country was founded as a secular, even Deist country after the bloodbaths between the Catholics and the Protestants in England and the inquisitions in Spain where Jews were slaughtered.
    Isn't there a line of scripture in Revelations that states "many are the mansions in God's heaven?". This can be interpreted as meaning that there are many different names for "God" be it Allah, or "Mombo Gombo", or "Yahway" (sp).
    When groups use religion as an excuse to control others, it ceases to have a legitimate moral base and its existence should be questioned.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  3. mouse

    oh my gosh.....cornerstone. That does it, I won't even read the contents. What a sorry excuse for a church. IF a mega-church doesn't go completely against the teachings of jesus nothing does!!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  4. teepee

    Let's just all make a pack to not vote for him....

    March 29, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  5. Stacie

    Interesting...a country that touts freedom of religion while the Republican party works towards making us a religious state – a Christian religious state. A patriarichal (white male dominated), controlling, women in the kitchen and bedroom only, unforgiving, uncompassionate, poor deserve being poor, the rich elite deserve being rich, the poor deserve to serve the rich elite, dictatorial, Christian religious state. I can understand why white, rich males want this world, what I can't understand is the women who support them in this goal. Why would anyone want to go back to being property to be owned and controlled by another.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Peggy


      I attended the 100 year celebration luncheon on women's fight for peace and freedom, this past Saturday. I get your message. Changes are coming as one by one these people show their true colours.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Stacie wrote: "I can't understand is the women who support them in this goal."

      I'm afraid that there are many Phyllis Schlafly clones out there...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  6. noel

    for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of GOD... it's a forgiveness thing folks... let he who is w/out sin cast the first stone...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • yalesouth

      Ok good point, so why is Newt always casting stones?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  7. will

    So what? What makes him think that the athiests are just going to lie down and take it when the radical islamists try to take over the country?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      We haven't had too much luck trying to stand up to the religiously zealot Christians...

      In DOG we trust...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  8. Norm

    How can a country be both secular atheist and dominated by "radical Islamists"? Beats me.

    Anyway, I'll take a secular atheist country that thrives on rationality, freedom of thought, and grounding in fact and science any day over the overzealous, evangelical, prosyletizing, fire and brimstone version of Christianity currently circulating amongst our uneducated set.

    Obama 2012. Yes We Can.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • realitybites

      Actually all of the Athiests bashing is probably makeing more of them. It's like telling a teenage girl that you forbid her to date a guy you don't like b/c he's not what you want him to be. They're more vocal and don't have to be apologetic about it either. We agnostics probably would preferr your choice as well.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  9. noel

    very simple bob, muslims almost never assimilate to OUR notions of being an american. they usually are still beholden to their religion and their former country of birth... something scary to ponder. by 2050 it's est. that there will be 50 million muslims in the satates. ASSIMILATE or get lost... you don't see german, irish, italian etc... folks holding allegances to their mother countries... for good reason.. we're americans, be loyal or get the hell out of here asap!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Observer

      "ASSIMILATE or get lost...". Like the Christians did when they arrived uninvited to the homeland of the native American Indians?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • realitybites

      Thank you, Observer. Maybe he would like to live in "Assimilate or get lost" Nazi Germany or better Yet Calvinist England. Oops. No more new world to escape to.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Jessie

    Wait. Our country was dominated by Christians for how long? And in that time period we have waged how many wars and dropped how many atomic bombs? Our last two CHRISTIAN Presidents (Bush and Obama) have put us (well Obama tried to put us) into wars we cannot win. All the while, the US is being laughed at for being "fat and stupid" by other nations. I would vote for an atheist for a change. Maybe if people weren't so focused on religion they would see what is happening to our great nation.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  11. Jim Weaver

    If the "Muslims" take over the country, how can it be secular? We will be a muslim country!!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  12. Joyce

    why anyone would listen to the likes of Newt Gingrich is beyond me. Look at his track record!!!!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  13. kd

    Gingrich is clearly throwing gasoline on the racist, bigoted uber-religious fire.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  14. Joseph

    Most of the world's greatest thinkers and contributors have been strong believers in God, and for far deeper reasons than fear of negative consequences. They believed for reasons much more profound and intellectually sound. As far as those negative consequences go, the violation of universal law is much like the violation of physical law. It will kill you, and not because God's nature is wrathful, but because certain people are stubborn and ignorant, and, like a child ignoring their parents, just couldn't resist inching closer to the rim of the eternal 'Grand Canyon' until they fell to their demise. "But it's God's fault for making a Grand Canyon. Look how wrathful He is!" Utterly laughable. A little knowledge can be very dangerous.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. teepee

    How does he feel about adultry?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  16. kmdguy

    It is amazing to me that seemingly "intelligent" adults believe in the fairy tales of the bible and then put all known scientific truth on a shelf and insist that we all HAVE to believe in an invisible god, that according to the countless stories in the bible, comes off as hateful, spiteful, bi-polar, vengeful, filled with blood lust, jealous, demanding, etc. If people like Newt had their way, he would mandate that we live in a theocracy where we all have to go to church by law, have bible studies once a week and publicly profess we love jesus once a year in order to get a refund on our taxes or something.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • realitybites

      Scary part is that a lot of us had those kinds of people in our families before and still do. Why is it so difficult to get past the 19th century for soo many Americans? Much less, 16th century? It boggles the mind that we are still having to deal w/ the same kind so rabid extremist ignorance that burned free thinkers at the steak for heresy.

      March 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  17. Observer

    Possibly America's greatest hypocrite may be showing signs of additional delusion.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • teepee

      couldn't have said it better myself...

      March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  18. Jon Koppel

    Hasn't this guy been divorced four times? Yes, a fine Catholic he...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  19. Really?

    I could not read past the first paragraph of this article. Can anyone explain to me how a country of "Atheists", a non-religious belief be lead by Islam, a highly conservative and very religious belief? I'm beginning to think that these politicians are having betting matches with each other just to see who can get the most people to follow this lunacy. The winner gets all the babies they can eat...

    March 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • teepee


      March 29, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  20. Greg

    Catholics were the Muslims of yesteryear to the Founding Fathers. Gingrich and Obama are both idiots; anyone that supports is crazy. Look up the Batholomew's Day Massacre and then follow the Protestant trail to America. The reason America should be concerned about Muslims taking political power is because it has already been done by Catholics. Big religion has big money. Protestants have their crazies, too, but they are unorganized religion.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • teepee

      So you want Palin?

      March 29, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • edpeters

      Sometimes one has to wonder why we have freedom of speech.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:10 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.