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. Robert

    Gingrich has morphed into a cartoon character and an embarrasment. If the country were dominated by Islamists, how could it be an athiest country? What a moron!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  2. Justme

    Gingrich's statement that as people move away from religion we are heading for "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists" is laughable. The Republicans are once again trying to win the religious vote like they did in 1994. There is also this mistaken belief on the part of religious people that non-religious people cannot not be good and have no morals.

    One thing our founding fathers understood is you don't mix religion with politics but Republicans know how to play on peoples fears and pretend that if voted in office they will make the country more God fearing like they did in 1994. Here is Gingrich trying to scare people into believing America will be run by radical Muslims, which could happen if we vote them into office. What is the possibility of that happening?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  3. John Markham

    It is pitiful for a potential presidential candidate to rely on religious beliefs (or mis-beliefs) to foster his candidacy. It is also, with respect, grossly insulting to any non-believer (including atheists, agnostics etc) to place them in the same category as Muslims. This bigot should be ashamed of himself to make such statements in public. Having said this, is womenizing and adultery part of his Christian platform?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  4. Joe

    who decides what faith values "America" should have? If I remember correctly, many of the individuals leaving Europe came for Religious Freedom....I don't see how Religious Freedom, is only that in a belief in God?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  5. JLS639

    He is just stringing buzzwords together. An atheist country dominated by radical Islamists? Isn't that kind of like an arid country dominated by heavy rainfall, or a militaristic country with no army?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  6. Hank

    Newt has a right to say whatever he wants,and everyone has the right not to listen if they so choose.
    This is America the Free not America The If you don't believe what I believe,then you must be atheist.
    Many Native American's believe in animal spirits and believe in mother earth which is something we all can see and should take better care of.
    Newt and his Church followers are bigots against those who do not believe what they do.
    I believe we are all created equal and that we should respect others for whatever they believe.
    Radical brainwashers in any religion or that have no religion maybe just need to go out and enjoy nature and be at peace with everyone and everything. Extremes in most things seem to go against all common sense.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  7. BL

    Right, you've finally got it-that's the plan!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  8. Pete

    Im sorry...call me shallow.."Hello Shallow"...but I would never vote for anyone whos name was "Newt". Mixed with a dash of "idiot" and pinch of "stupid" this potion is POISON!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  9. Reality

    With respect to "nutty Newt":

    Jesus was a bit "touched" (as is Newt). After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul (that includes "nutty Newt") et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • heavyhand

      While I do NOT agree with N.G. your comments while sounding really good were only that, your opinion. I can cite thousands of scholars who repudiate EVERYTHING you said. While you have the right to your opinion stating your opinion as fact is at best narcissism.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Another Larry

      The opinion of thousands of scholars is still just an opinion. If there were any truth to what Christians believe why is there no evidence for any of it in their lives?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  10. Dave

    Religion is a mental disease.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  11. Bria Jones

    I'm sorry, but what does a "secular atheist country [...] dominated by radical Islamists" even mean? If your country is dominated by radical Islamists, it isn't a secular atheist one and vice versa.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • John Markham

      Good question – but you can hardly expect an intelligent comment from someone called "Newt".

      March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • JLS639

      It means he is stringing together a bunch of buzzwords. Sort of like saying an arid country dominated by heavy rainfall or a clean house covered in filth.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Madge

      There was a report put out just this week and widely reported that the Christian religion in the west will be gone within a few generations if current trends persist. I believe that is probably what he is referring to.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  12. Milo

    he's right, this nation will be mostly secular, but people like him and that westboro church will quite literally, fight for the fairy tale they create out of their own fear.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  13. Bugsy

    newts not so bad at least he loves jesus. he's a true patriot americun, god bles him. you devil dogs need to bakc off back to your brothels and opium dens back in arabia

    March 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  14. LGNY

    Considering how far right the current crop of Republican wannabes have swung, it's hard to imagine how they will appeal in any way to the moderate center. Similarly, how will they ever compromise or collaborate to move this nation ahead.

    The right believes that it has a 100% lock on the truth with no need to listen to other views or to compromise. That is a very scary position.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  15. vwman

    I just do not think Newt has any credibility to talk about such concerns.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  16. Peter

    Odd, isn't it, how those who set themselves up as caring for this country the most are the same ones who seem not to remember the roots of the country? Religious freedom – ring a bell with anyone over there on the right? It's astounding.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Al

      All I have ever wanted is freedom from religion and the same respect for my American gay grandchildren and their hopes and dreams that Islam and Christianity demand for themselves.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  17. Duke13

    Take heed and be not deceived by anything Newt Gingrich says.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  18. Mark

    Don't worry Newt! The Mormons won't let that happen....

    March 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  19. Alex Weld

    Bold statement for someone who wants to run the country. Bold and idiotic. This is the reason anti-theism exists...religion should be YOUR PERSONAL BUSINESS. Religion should have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHAT SO EVER to do with any part of our government.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  20. Lon

    Right, well let's all then become radical Christians! That will keep'em radical Muslims at bay!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Brian

      Raise your hand if you are scared to death of both religions. I have both hands up.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Lon


      March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • k kim

      By "radical" do you mean extreme or going back to the roots/original form, i.e., the early church (before the church sold out)? The early church would have had nothing to do with politics but would have focused on spreading the Gospel throughout the earth and living in Christ, while withstanding persecution from the gov't. Indeed, what American church may need is persecution and suffering rather than having hypocrite fake Christians in power.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      @k kim: You mean like the Westboro baptist types? Is that the kind of return to the "early church" that you're talking about?


      March 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
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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.