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. Libby

    OMG Newt, go back to the University, write obscure history books and SHUT UP!

    March 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  2. oh, brother!

    Newt, I have a news for you – Palin/Beck got the "crazy talk" all covered, you are too late to the party!

    March 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. V

    "The Founding Fathers' Christian values"? And this guy thinks people need to be reeducated on what it is to be American, yet he doesnt even understand what the founding fathers were in the first place. "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion". - George Washington.

    March 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  4. Bartholomew

    Secular atheist huh? Secular means a state of being separate from religion not elimination or absence of it. Also American was founded as a secular country WITH freedom of religion meaning you can be christian, muslim or even atheist.

    Newt is smart even if he did make moral/character mistakes like running out on his wife while she was on her deathbed. He knows better, he is just pandering to his target audience with ignorant statements like this.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  5. Nix

    How could Newt know the difference between an atheist and a Muslim? Neither one is likely to vote for him, so they neither on his good list.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  6. Dane Yoshida

    There are more people in memberships in churches today than there has ever been in our nation's history. Sure there is an increase in population of atheists and agnostics but statistically speaking that is going to happen. The population increases and naturally numbers of agnostics and atheists are going to increase. But let's not ignore the fact that we are more churched now than the days of the founding fathers. He is just feeding Christians baseless fears and it works.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Brent

    What I would really like to know, is how does an idiot like Gingrich get to be in a place where we actually have to listen to what he thinks?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  8. Anarimus

    We'll be McDonald's but we will be Taco Bell.

    It will be overcast and rainy but it will be sunny.

    We'll have a full head of hair...but we'll be bald.

    March 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  9. gra-gra

    Wow.. "a secular atheist country" and at the same time, " potentially one dominated by radical Islamists"? Is there nothing we Americans cannot do?

    March 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  10. Seer

    Newt is an offense to the founding principles of the United States. He apparently thinks that Muslims neither believe in God nor are they religious. AND, that all Muslims are radical zealots. Aside from his obvious ignorance of the First Amendment, which is an impeachable offense for a President (and a career ending move for a candidate), I think he's doing a great job at projecting what he feels towards his own religion onto Muslims – essentially blaming them to cover his own shame.

    That's the problem with politics – you've voting on people based on their personal baggage, not on what they can do for the country because in the end, their baggage wins out.

    March 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  11. oh, brother!

    Newt is taking private lessons from Glan Beck!

    March 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Smokepole

    Ya gotta watch out for those Atheist Islamists. If I ever meet one, I wll tell him he doesn't get to dominate the country.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  13. Bob F

    Newt is courting votes. He's found that he can be anti-Muslim and anti-atheist at the same time. It has nothing to do with being pro-Christian or pro-American (being pro-anything doesn't get you any Republican votes, you've got to be anti- or negative to get Republican votes), neither of which he is. His goal is not to help America, it's to win an election.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  14. AmericanGirl

    what has happened to SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE?! This crazy is so ridiculous, I just cannot understand.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  15. Roland

    I see that 'separation of church and state' is once again just the usual blather without merit. When will we wake up to that?
    Oh– and Newt Gingrich is a waste of food and air who has contributed nothing whatsoever to our society.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  16. CM

    Wow Newt! How can a country be secular and Islamist at the same time? No one is going to come into your rich megachurches and force you into becoming secular or Islamist. That's because we have something called freedom of religion in this country! You are a fear mongering idiot and a hypocrite! Some Christians are just afraid that they will no longer be the power holding majority in this country and that terrifies them because of all the injustices they have committed in the past they fear will be committed against them. But they should not fear being equal to others because it only makes this country stronger! It is diversity and equality that makes this country great and to keep this country great we must embrace it and not the opposite. Do not fear what you do not understand. I do not know much about Islam, but I have had the good fortune to meet some very good Muslims. Granted there are bad Muslims, but there are bad Christians too. If we want them to become part of our American society then we need to include them to win their hearts and minds. Isolating ourselves is not the answer. We hate them and they hate us because we do not know each other. If you are truly Christians then you will love one another!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • AmericanGirl


      March 29, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  17. M

    Before anyone can comment on a religion we need to be educated with an open mind about all religion, Faith in itself should not be defined by a church, or the fear of hell, but a relationship with whatever higher being, interpeace, or nothingness you believe in. To fully make a decision of Faith whether that be FAITH in nothing or FAITH in God, Budda, Saint Nick, whatever, we as a country have to let go of our narrowminded, judemental, aroggant ways.If you look at countries that do have a common ground of moral beliefs, of some kind of faith their love and community flourish in a very different way. America was built on a God they trusted, now church and state should be seperate if we choose to be a FREE country, however you cannont deny that the belief of Christ were the beliefs of our founders. Sadly though the type of person who holds the abilities to seperate his own faith and belief to help all people, would get eaten alive by the people we have in political office. and even more depressing is that most Americans have the same greedy, selfcenter, ME ME ME my set as those who run for office. We just happen to vote on who might BENEFIT my ME mind set most......

    March 29, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • kso

      Actually, no this country wasn't found on a god "we" trusted. that was added much later by some other theocrat.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  18. Nickn411

    When did it become acceptable for religions to meddle in affairs of the government. I seem to recall a basic concept called "separation of church and state". If the government spent as much time and effort on religious affairs, the God-fearing public would go ballistic. Isn't it the job of the religions of the world to bring men to God? If Mr. Gingrich fears that we are becoming an "atheist country..." why isn't he going after the religious leaders? It seems to me that the churches in this country aren't doing a very good job if we need the government to enforce religious beliefs. In addition, if the government is expected to be a force for religious dogma, perhaps it's time for the churches to start paying taxes.

    Didn't Jesus himself say "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."?

    March 29, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Don F.

      Ah, but it has always been acceptable (or at least practiced) that religion to meddle in the arrairs of government, what is not acceptable, under the doctine of "separation of church and state" is for the state to meddle in the arrairs of religion or to be dependant on or endorcing of a particular brand/branch of religion.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  19. Nutes

    Newt is a heretic adulturer, gather the firewood.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  20. EatRunDive

    New nomination for stupidest thing said by a politician:

    House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he's worried the United States could be “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.”

    Which is it Newt? Are we going to be Atheists of Islamists? If we are going to be one, we can't be the other!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Amused

      It is absurd isn't it! Think about it, if we become an "aetheist country", how could we be "dominated by muslims" if we don't believe in ANY GOD AT ALL? wouldn't we would just laugh at them ! It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! I wonder if Newt knows the difference between a muslim and an aetheist?

      March 29, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • dbaLV

      Just as modern theists are atheistic towards the gods of antiquity (i.e. Zeus, Thor, Ra, etc), some modern “Christians” are Atheistic towards non-Christian religions. I see it as people arguing over whose invisible friend is the real one.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Aunt Raven

      To "EatRunDrive:" you say, "House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he's worried the United States could be “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.”

      Which is it Newt? Are we going to be Atheists of Islamists? If we are going to be one, we can't be the other!

      Wrong-It's not "either / or" - it's "both / and" . If the majority of the population become secular athiests, (which is arguable) then the average citizen will lack the reforming energy of those whose politics are motivated by radical religious beliefs. This would logically suggest that eventually a torpid, laid-back population would be wondering how sharia-style social policies and social engineering transformed American life into something the founding fathers never intended.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • V

      Its probable that he really thinks that atheist and muslims are one in the same. His concern is that hey are not christian.

      March 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Church Militant

      An atheist state has never existed, nor will it. The moral vacuum will be filled by Islam, and God help us if it is. People have been taught that Christianity is evil and false, and Christians are violent, but the truth is, Christian violence is rare. Catholic violence is rarer, and Islam - well, as Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said, "Jesus died to establish Christianity; Muhammad murdered to establish Islam." And it's still going on...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • dbaLV

      Church Militant – A moral vacuum is a non sequitur. It has been scientifically proven that some primates are guided by what could be called a moral sense. What so called holy book did they read? A moral sense has been passed down via natural selection, it is beneficial for primates to behave morally. Since when has the Judean-Christian-Islamic god been moral? Read your holy books, they are full of immoral deeds being performed by these deities, and upon behalf of them.

      March 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65
About this blog

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.