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. dweebish1

    The whole pseudo-Christian American civic religion scares me. Its like the USA is the new Jerusalem, and the "founding fathers" were prophets. As a Christian, it is always disturbing to see our language usurped and used to justify almost anything.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • hharri

      That was a zephyr, dear one. Study your peers. Think volcanoes

      August 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Joe

    I wonder if Gingrich is aware that most, if not all, of the founding fathers were not Christian. Benjamin Franklin himself said "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." Isn't the true meaning of what it is to be an American to be free, not to be a part of a particular religion?

    August 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  3. herbert juarez

    Good grief, gingrich fears his own shadow.Didn't someone put a fork in this guy years ago?newt best fear the fork cause he's been done for a couple decades ,at least.

    August 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  4. tryecrot

    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  5. Seriously

    People kill in the name of countries, fear, prejudges, god, and something as stupid as cheese. They will find a way to gather behind a cause and consider their selves right to vindicate that others are wrong and should be hated for it, look in history, race, ethnicity, beliefs, birth place, hair color, eye color and other discriminations.

    Humans are just finding a new reason to discriminate and hate. And history will repeat itself once again, because we didn’t learn discrimination is the real reason we are held back as a species, instead of working together we rather point fingers and blame one another for a history of misdeeds.

    May 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • hharri


      August 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  6. CYNDI

    GOD BLESS YOU PAM! GOD WILL SURELY BLESS YOU FOR STANDING UP FOR HIM....NOONE HERE IS GETTING THE POINT...I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SAYING – EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE...THAT MEANS GOD FEARING CHRISTIANS TOO....ALL OF YOU are missing pams's point. everyone points the fingers at christians saying they are crazy and insist on remvoing the bible and GOD's word from everywyhere BUT DON'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE ATHEISTS OR OTHER RELIGIONS...The non believers always cut down christians and call us idiots nd radical and insane. Believe what you want – the christians don't care if you don't believe, but don't tell us what to believe.

    We won't bother you – as it states in the bible "Neither cast ye your pearls before swine," is the advice that Jesus gave to Peter. It means: Don't waste your advice, intelligence, good words (basically, anything you could provide of value) on those who are too naive or ignorant to appreciate it.

    so, to all of you who are swine, we don't want to talk to you – you are not worth our time. when you are burning in hell the believers in JESUS CHRIST as our LORD AND SAVIOR WILL BE IN A HEAVENLY PLACE WITH NO WARS, SICKNESS AND BE THERE FOREVER while the non believers will be in TORMENT FOREVER.

    April 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Michael

      As an Atheist I am deeply offended that you don't have the respect for us that you demand we give you and as a human I am ashamed to be in the same genus as someone so ignorant and bigoted as you.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • RomanXVII

      CYNDI and walter johnson are quite hateful and spiteful, one must admit.

      June 8, 2011 at 4:49 am |
  7. JLSR

    I am in FL, also, and I am heartened to know there is another thinking individual here that left the GOP behind. Kudoes! Great comment.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Doug

    Pray tell, how can a nation be a "secular atheist nation, one dominated by Islamic extremists"? If a nation is both secular and atheist, then it cannot be dominated by the Islamic religion.Islam defies atheism.It calls atheism a scourge worse than infidels.Gingrich suffers from the worst kind of scourge...ignorance of the facts. But then, he is preaching to the choir of the Cornerstone Church. He has, apparently, lost the cornerstone of his mind as well.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  9. Jay

    So his fear is that we as Americans will have freedom of religion? Does freedom of religion only apply to Christian religions? Clearly he fails to understand what "freedom" means.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  10. Jesse

    How does Hagee still get a tax exemption? He is constantly getting involved in politics and promoting certain candidates. Remember that wunderkin Tom Delay? He was spoke at Hagee's church? And Hagee's sermons always include, "To learn more buy my set of CD's or my book".

    April 10, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • hharri

      Call it co-dependency, if that helps you. Whatever you do, don't feel the rage that is killing you. Divert to hating repubs or dems or women or Jews or government spending

      August 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Perhaps if Gingrich ever bothered to consult a dictionary, he'd realize that - by definition - a "secular atheist" country could not possibly be dominated by "radical Islamists", or vice versa. Then again, when have religious conservatives ever been concerned with facts and truth?

    April 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Nate

    Anybody else really confused as to how Atheism and Islam go together?

    Wow is Newt an idiot.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  13. Rebecca

    This is just the kind of idiot the religious retards will vote for; the kind of people who don't know that atheism means the lack of belief and the kind of people who think that atheists are evil and want to destroy the "good" world we live in. Pardon me while I slam my head into the wall.

    April 7, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  14. Mike in FL

    “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,”

    Would someone please explain to me how the HELL this would even work? As near as I can tell, radical Islamists DON'T WANT a secular atheist country. Radical Islamists are THEISTS! They believe in a Creator Being that they call Allah (the SAME one the Christians and Jews call Yahweh or Jehovah). People can't be atheist Muslims just like they can't be atheist Christians. Atheism doesn't work that way! Christianity and Islam don't work that way!

    Newt, the more you talk the more you make me thankful that I left the GOP behind. Spouting this kind of stupidity is going to come back and bite you AND the Republican Party in the butt. If you want to be critical of atheism and Islam, that's fine. JUST KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!

    April 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • tom callender

      It could work. they would pray 5 times to a God they don't believe in.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  15. Apple12

    I believe the founding fathers were atheist. No person with " Christian values" could come up with separation of church and state. Plus, no matter who oppresses you, you are who you are. There is no such thing as a real American in terms of anyone. So if u wanna say ur one u r one. It just has be legal to say it officially.

    April 2, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  16. walter johnson

    Atheists , you see not , hear not , lest you too be saved , Your God , is your brain n ur ass , save none . spout your petty thoughts as if you had some important things to share with us believers ..... Atheist believes in nothing , so what's ur beef , not happy , when you have nothing to believe in you r hopelesss , my friend . There is hope ... only believe n God's love will be shed on you also , as it already has , but u know not , u think you're a gift from the evolutionary process when you are jkust like the rest of us , but with a head thinking u know about the Spirit world , which you have not felt or have any clue to it's existence ... enjoy your days , they are numbered as we all have our day , then the judgment / resurrection to new life . some to heaven some are like wood n stumble made for the fires of hell , you choose , choose wisely bro , cause you choose where u spend eternity , believe it or not ,,??Choose , this day to serve the Lord or ur father of lied / deceitfulnes / murders ....

    April 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Terre

      I certainly wouldn't want to spend my eternity with saints, too boring.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • JLSR

      See–you merely serve to prove that fanatics come in every religion. Thank you for that. When did hatred and exclusion become "Christian values?" "Love your brother as yourself" never specifies who your brother is or might be. Maybe if Christians get back to true Christianity, we will ALL be much happier.
      Your friend, the Atheist

      April 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • C.J.

      To JLSR Matthew 12:15 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (KJV) Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (KJV)
      To the rest of you Jeramiah 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (KJV)
      People say things that hurt, offend, and anger...they did that and worse to Jesus...him they crucified and NAILED TO CROSS WHILE HE WAS STILL ALIVE, stabbed him in the side with a spear, gave him viniger when he thirsted and SO MUCH MORE...he said "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34, KJV).
      He NEVER retaliated with the same kind of responses. We as believers CANNOT witness effectively that the none believer be saved, if we keep resonding in anger. God IS love, and demands that we show love. He DOES tell us who our brohers and sisters are, BUT he also COMMANDS that we show love to our neighbors. Respect, love and kindness in the face of mean hurtful and hateful words is the only way to reach them. It's the whole reaping and sewing thing. Love begats love, hate begates hate, anger begats anger, if we keep responding and acting like the world, how can we expect to reap anything but worldy responses?

      Evangelist C.J.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Vercingetorix

      II certainly wouldn't want to spend all of eternity with Walter Johnson.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Atheist with Beliefs

      Walter, you say that atheists have no beliefs. This is not true. It is a common mix up between a dictionary definition of 'atheism' in it's original stark form. Modern atheist beliefs are enriched by science. Science tells me who I am, a member of this species and how we came to be here. You seem to argue that having Some beliefs is better than having none, but it is possible to have a perfectly healthy world view without some invisible god watching us all over our shoulders. I know, there can be math involved, but Science is the Way and the Light. Most people believe what they prefer to believe, but I object to the Christian Lie that atheists are evil and cannot be moral. Morality is evolved into each of us, that preachers claim this comes from their god is, in the light of science, unimpressive. For you, your comments really seem to be about passing the hate along. It's shining bigots like yourself that make me think I'd retch if forced into a church again.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Thus, Islam bases people's relational conduct on kindness. Hence, it condemns intolerance, prejudice and bigotry, and rejects discrimination based on color, creed, national origin or religion.
    The Muslim acceptance applies to all elements of life and must reflect in all of the Muslim's affairs. The teaching of Islam towards proper behavior, anger control, patience, treatment of spouse, parent, neighbor, the young and the old, the friend, the enemy, the environment and specifically the People of the Book are evident in the Holy Qur'an and the life and example of the Prophet Muhammad (p).
    In calling people to the Islamic Faith, for example, a Muslim must be wise, sensitive, humble and considerate. The Qur'an teaches:
    "Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and discuss with them in ways that are best and most gracious." Qur'an, 16:25.


    March 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • JLSR

      I, truly, hope you realize that, not only does Newt NOT speak for me, he does NOT speak for any intelligent, thoughtful person in America,

      April 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Doc Waters

      Sounds like a great religion! But isn't this also the religion that wants to wipe the filthy Jews off the face of the Earth, kills women for dishonoring the family, and suicide bombs or otherwise kills anyone who disagrees after the gentle invitation to join is kindly rejected?

      April 27, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  18. Sara Volk

    I fear a hyperreligious teabagger country with a machiavellian, philandering, pseudochristian, hypocritical nut job at the helm. To those who long for the good old days, you mean where pregnant girls went away to "homes for unwed mothers" and desperate gay people committed suicide in private? It's all yours.

    March 31, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • JLSR

      You and me, BOTH, sistuh!

      April 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Anne

    "A atheist country, dominated by radical Islam"? Really Newt?An atheist country by definition would be dominated by NO religion. Vastly preferable to any other option.

    March 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • JLSR

      Maybe Newt is trying to out-Bush Bush in both religious fanaticism and stupidity. He is doing a great job at that, so far.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  20. naveen

    I sincerely hope Newt Gingrich wins the republican nomination so that all of his BS and stupidity in the past can be blown up by the media and everyone can see him for the hateful idiot he is.

    March 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Apple12

      Right on! I don't care what he's done to help the US. If Im correct, a rather large portion of our country is full of atheists. Clearly if does win the nomination, none of us will vote for him. And excluding Jews who have a distaste for Muslims ( for reasons other than bigotry and 9-11) Id hope none of my people vote for him, even so. He doesn't have to fear this. As long the majority of Americans are white christans, they will always be in power. I hope that if President Obama doesn't win reelection or doesn't run, his successor is some calm person who thinks all this hate towards Muslims is stupid becomes president. On another note.... THERE IS LITTLE RADICAL ISLAM IN THIS COUNTRYK

      April 2, 2011 at 2:17 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.