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. InfidelHere

    126 indictments have been handed out in the last two years by our super ultra-liberal Attorney General Eric Holder himself for terrorism.

    And guess what????? Each and every person indicted…has been…a…wait for it…wait for it…a Muslim! What a shock!

    March 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  2. Mike

    It amazes me time and again how consistent atheist comments are. Let me sum up the atheist comments on this list–angry, hatred toward others who have beliefs, discontent, hopelessness. The beauty of our one true God is that He is not a tyrant. He doesn't force us to love Him or believe in Him. Whenever I speak to an atheist, I never impose my Christian values on that person. Doing so would only force that person further away from God. All I can do is share my experiences and hope that a finite mind can try to understand infinity. It is not the will of the Father that any should perish. Here's my experience with God. You can choose to believe or not and all I can do for you is share my experience and pray for you. Peace be with you: http://uniteunderonegod.typepad.com/unite_under_one_god/this-is-how-it-all-started/

    March 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      You're right guy, atheists are being completely unreasonable when we get mad because some moron (that many of you may vote for) claims that we will destroy this country.

      Lets try an experiment. I'm going to make a statement. It's a statement that I genuinely believe. Lets see if it irritates you fundy-types a bit. Here goes:

      "I think that if the theocracy favoring nuts like you and (apparently) Newt Gingrich ever take full control of this country, you will run it into the ground and transform it into a twisted parody of my once-great nation."

      Now how does that make you feel?

      March 28, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • SB

      "I never impose my Christian values on that person."


      March 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • bp

      Mike well said, now if there were more christians like you not pushing there beliefs on everyone else. I think a lot of christians don't understand Atheism, basically we deny a supernatural diety(s) because there is no logical or emperical proof for such a being. Athiest want proof thats about it. Now However since that is not available we do end up get getting frustrated when your fellow believers try to enforce national policy based off your religion. If its ok for christians to do it why not other groups? Or would it be better if believers kept it to themselves as faith should be a priivate concern between a believer and his imganiary friend.

      Atheist dont care if there is religious people in a nation, we dont discriminate like that, we just dont want the rules of that religion to dictate the rules of everyone else in this nation.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Another Larry

      @Mike: "Let me sum up the atheist comments on this list–angry, hatred toward others who have beliefs, discontent, hopelessness."

      There is no limit to your ability to embrace fantasies to prop up your delusions. I can assure you that Christians posting in online forums do not as a whole project contentment. They are some of the angriest, meanest people around.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Another Larry

      @Mike: "The beauty of our one true God is that He is not a tyrant. He doesn't force us to love Him or believe in Him."

      The real beauty of God is that since he's a mythical being he can be whatever you want him to be.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      Oh thanks Larry! I missed that comment earlier, and it's one of my favorites that these nuts use.

      "The beauty of our one true God is that He is not a tyrant. He doesn't force us to love Him or believe in Him."

      You're right, Mike, according to your beliefs he doesn't force any beliefs on us, he just signs us up for eternal torture if we choose wrong. Kind of like a tyrant would. Funny thing, that.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Another Larry

      @AmazingSteve: One of many things that makes no sense about the beliefs of most Christians is that according to them, failing to believe what they believe condemns you to hell for all eternity, or at least to a state of existence far less appealing than the one they expect to enjoy, and yet God seems determined to ensure there is no evidence of his existence. Why is God hiding?

      March 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      I tend to favor the "God is a Jerk" hypothesis about Christianity, which leads me to my position as a satanic atheist: I don't believe in any of this nonsense, but if I were suddenly given irrefutable proof of god's existence, I would side with the other guy.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • oh, brother!

      "Arguing about religion is like running in the Special Olympics, no matter who wins, everyone is retarded."

      March 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  3. Tom

    Gingrich may be drawing a parallel with Europe. The population of atheists in Europe is higher than in the U.S. They also have large populations of Muslim immigrants (France, Norway, Germany, etc.) While the majority of these Muslims are peaceful, there are some extremists there as well. One of the major issues of this century is how the secular (yet primarily Judeo-Christian) West can coexist with Muslims. The key to this lies in the interpretation of Shariah law.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Another Larry

      In this country Sharia law isn't the issue. It's the Christians who persecute Muslims and want to ban them from practicing their religion. Muslims here haven't tried to impose anything on anyone. It's the Christians who want to do the imposing and many of them make no bones about it.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • oh, brother!

      I highly doubt he was drawing a parallel. If he was, why didn't he say just so? That would be intelligent and not scary, I think he is agoing fo "scary"...

      March 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  4. Bugsy

    Hey Moderator, &^%&^% you for censoring my posts!

    March 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  5. tulivieja

    Naaaahhh-America will be dominated by hypocritical serial adulterers.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  6. JDinTexas

    As a Christian, I object to Mr. Gingrich's remarks and hope no one thinks they represent the opinion of most, or even more than a small minority, of people claiming to be Christians. First, they make no sense: a secular, atheist nation dominated by radical Islamists? Seems to me the two are mutually exclusive and based on nothing but a desire to incite fear. Second, while it is naive, and wrong, to suggest that a persons religious beliefs, or lack thereof, have no effect or influence on some questions of public policy, it is far more alarming to see someone seeking the office of President imply that its the government's job to insure the people of this country adopt the Christian point of view. Isn't that what the Church is supposed to do? Perhaps if more of us claiming to to be Christinas acted like a bit more Jesus we would attract people to the faith rather than ask the Government to compel faith (as if that were even possible). Third, the idea that their should be a separation of church and state is a BIBLICAL idea first mentioned in the Old Testament when God rejects Saul as king over Israel because he had the hubris to assume the role of both king and priest. In sum, we Christians should demand no more (or less) in the way of political rights that we are willing to grant to those of other faiths or no faith at all.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  7. Observer

    If they ever build a Hypocrites Hall of Fame, they will need an additional building just for Gingrich.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  8. JB

    As a Catholic, shouldn't he be railing against ALL religions that don't believe in Jesus as the savior, the son of god, the Christ? You know, like Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam (my bad, he's got that one covered), Shinto, etc..etc..? Catholics believe in the trinity and believe to be saved, you must believe in the trinity. That includes "the son". Guess what, Jews don't believe in the son. In fact, Islam gives more credence to Jesus than Judaism does. In Judaism, Jesus is a heretic, a false messiah and liar, for claiming to be the Christ. In Judaism he is less than nothing, and as I recall, isn't even mentioned in the Torah. In Islam, Jesus is considered a messenger of god and is mentioned 25 times in the Koran. So Newt, who ya gonna slam next, the Buddhist, the Hindus, or the Jews? They would be considered by many, like those people you were talking to today, as non-believers and definitely non-Christian.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    “-She turned me into a newt!
    -A newt?
    -I got better...”

    March 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  10. Travis

    I am starting to think only Huckabee and Romney have a shot at 2012. And Huck seems to be putting one foot into the kookery, and Romney is tainted by the fact Obama adopted his healthcare reform plan from Mass.

    I am really starting to wonder (and I genuinely mean this, I am not trying to be contrite) that Newt might have gone off his rocker a bit. He has always been bombastic, but usually it was politically motivated and well calculated. He's been utterly outrageous, and comes off as a bitter and angry old man. And crazy old man.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Bugsy

      Crazy from alimony and STDs

      March 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  11. kasey

    As an atheist– but oddly, not an Islamist– I find Newt's comments pretty inflammatory. But kudos on McCain's grasp of the word repudiate.

    My fear is that Maggie and Robert will grow up to be hateful religious bigots if Newt has anything to do with it.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • TheAgnostic

      Well said kasey. Too many young children in this country being brainwashed by idiocy like this.

      March 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  12. TheAgnostic

    Discussions like this are always interesting, amusing, and sometimes, downright frightening. There is a difference between faith and rationality. Faith is blind, depending on inspiration or revelation. Rational though, however, dictates that there be some sort of evidence supporting a belief, a deity, a god, ora dogma. Too many people just give up on rational thought and take the blind leap of "faith" in a deity. That's when the trouble starts.

    No, I am not an atheist, left wing, right wing, etc. I am apolitical and an agnostic, so don't start heaping me with bible quotations or comments about the dems and the reps. It's all pretty silly in the end.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      "No, I am not an atheist, left wing, right wing, etc. I am apolitical and an agnostic, so don't start heaping me with bible quotations or comments about the dems and the reps. It's all pretty silly in the end."

      Way to sit on the fence.
      But I will point out that if you say you are not an atheist then by definition you are a theist. The word stands for belief and you either do or you don't. There is no middle ground.
      As for agnostic(which I am also) the word stands for knowledge. Gnostic for "I know" and agnostic for "I don't know"
      In dealing with the existence of god the gnostic position is unreasonable since it is impossible to "know" god exists.
      Therefore everyone is, if they're being honest, either an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  13. Nate

    Keep thumpin' that Bible (or Koran, Torah, etc) if you want to keep scaring people away.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  14. Peter

    Why are Gingrich's comments, and the man himself, moronic?

    Is it because he says that America will become an athiest country, implying, if not stating, that athiesm is a terrible fate? No... I wont even touch that.

    Is it because he says America will become dominated by radical Islamists, acting like that is a realistic possibility? No, again I don't even need to go there.

    It's because he joins the two ideas together. The idea that america can be both an athiest country and an islamist theocracy is illogical. We can either be an athiest nation, or an islamist theocracy, but we cannot be both. Moron.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Another Larry

      You're assuming he believes his tripe. I think he just knows he can get the Republican base to believe it. They'll believe anything that sounds scary.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  15. MikeBell

    The Community, State, and National governance should never establish a State religion. Establishing a Social Doctrine for governance should never be allowed. Leave the Social Programs to 'Society'. People tend to group with and take care of their own and are more inclined to assist others when there is no mandated State doctrine to do that work for them. The people should be free 'to be' or 'not be' of any religion; whether secular or established religion.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  16. katahdin

    Ole Newt makes no sense as usual. "An atheist country run by radical Muslims." Does Newt know that Islam is a religion, and no crazier than any other belief system that postulates an invisible sky buddy who sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake?
    It seems that Newt, like all Republicans, is just throwing out the buzzwords to excite and scare the faithful. Chant "Muslim" or "atheist" or "gay" or "feminist" or "immigrant" and the brains of crazy baseland turn off (to the extent that they were ever on) and they start hyperventilating with fear and rush off to vote for the party of the super rich and greedy. It works every time.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Joe

      I I wonder how many atheists live in the parts of the world that are Muslim dominated... - is it me?? Please, this guy was teaching in a college not so long ago, right? Is this the level of logic and intellect we'd see in a 'Christian dominated' society?

      March 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  17. Bob

    I think what Newt is trying to say is that as a result of what he perceives to be our indifference to a Christian god, our indifference might be expoited and eventually we will be controlled by radical Islamists. Like, we'll be too busy being secular humanists to notice the rise of radical (or any) Islam. Still a major logic fail in my opinion. That is until next week, when Newt pronounces that what this country needs is radical Islam.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Another Larry

      What Newt is trying to say is that if you vote for him he'll keep you safe from the boogie men.

      March 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  18. Marc

    Firstly – The newt is not thinking very clearly (as per usual). I suspect all moslems, fundamentalist or not, do not consider themselves to be atheist. Secondly – I think the country would be better off being atheist – maybe with a few christians and whatnot kept in church museums/zoos as a lesson to the upcoming generations on the dangers of blind obedience to irrational dictates.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  19. Travis

    As much as I long for the U.S. to be a wholly secular and predominantly atheist society, sadly I don't think his "fear" will be reality. We're stuck with religious hypocrites for the foreseeable future.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • PeterVN

      I share your longing. And I am sad that you are probably right that we are stuck with these hypocrites, Limbaugh being a prime example.

      March 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • midnightsage

      Most unfortunate.

      March 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Another Larry

      There will always be people who find the Christian narrative to be too appealing compared to the alternative to give it up.

      March 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  20. Corvus1

    Rethugs don't even believe in God, they're just playing on the fears of religious voters to stay in office.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:43 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.