Famous Australian Atheist Politician Becomes a Christian

Former Governor General of Australia, Bill Hayden (click for credit)

I have always been amazed by the many different ways God calls His people to Him. For me, God used science to convince me that there had to be a Creator. From there, I came to realize that the Creator is the God of the Bible. For others, it’s specific people who are influential in their lives. For others, it’s a specific experience or a long list of experiences that add together to lead them home. To see what I mean, read some of the accounts I have written about atheists who became Christians.

This account is of Bill Hayden, a famous politician in Australia. He worked in government for 35 years, ending his storied career as the Governor-General of Australia, the highest executive office in the land. His atheism became well known throughout Australia when he was sworn in to that post. Usually, the Governor-General swears an oath on the Bible, but Hayden ignored that tradition and simply gave an affirmation. In addition, by tradition, the Governor-General is also the Chief Scout of Australia. However, Hayden refused that position, since his atheism was incompatible with the Boy Scout Promise. Instead, he took the role of National Patron for the Australian Boy Scouts.

Why was Bill Hayden an atheist? In an interview, he gave several reasons. His father was an atheist, but his mother was a devout Catholic. He had some bad encounters with pastors and priests. He couldn’t believe some of what he called the “tall stories” in the Bible, such as Naoh’s Ark. However, the turning point in his life came when his five-year-old daughter was hit by a car and killed while crossing the street after Sunday School. A kind priest tried to help him find comfort in prayer, but he found no comfort there. That seems to be the moment he decided he was an atheist.

What called him back home to God? Once again, there were several factors. However, the biggest seemed to be a nun named Sister Angela Mary Doyle. She worked with him to pass what is now called Medicare, Australia’s socialized medicine program. In the interview, he said that when he was with her he thought:

I had been in the presence of a holy one, a holy person. I felt it was something that suffused my system. My chest felt heavily congested with the feeling that I have been lucky…that I had been with a particularly holy person.

That gave him something to which he could relate, and he eventually shed his atheism to follow Christ. Towards the end of the interview, he gives some sound advice to those who are having doubts about Christianity:

Understand your faith. Don’t let your faith be damaged by the failure of a few agents who never allowed their faith to guide them.

As a young man, he certainly didn’t understand the faith. The “tall stories” to which he refers are not hard to believe at all. In fact, they are easier to believe than the tall stories that one must believe in order to be an atheist. However, to see that, you must understand the Scriptures. When his daughter died, he didn’t understand his faith enough to see how it should have comforted him in his time of grief. In addition, we must all keep in mind that many individuals who claim to represent Christ do not actually follow Him. We should not use their actions to judge the faith that they claim to represent.

6 Comments

  1. William Wise says:

    Wonderful! Our God can’t be denied! John 4:42 “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Thanks for posting this! William

  2. Erik Tucker says:

    I honestly cringe when reading the part about how a nun helped him pass the socialized medicine laws. I associate that sort of thing with atheism. Making the government your provider and giving them almost unlimited authority over your life seems like it breaks the first commandment and it also necessitates enormous taxation which at a certain point is stealing. It really bothers me how some Christians can come to such different conclusions about the role of government than Americas Christian founders did.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      It doesn’t bother me, Erik. Christians have a history of disagreeing on politics.
      Even the disciples couldn’t agree. Simon was a zealot, and Matthew was a tax collector. They were on such opposite sides of the political spectrum that zealots said it was moral to kill tax collectors!

      1. John D says:

        I also don’t like the idea of socialized medicine but did hear something somewhat thought provoking the other day. It was while listening to E Michael Jones (pretty controversial figure). Someone speaking with him had suggested that Capitalism / Democracy was inherently good and produced better fruit than the other systems. He disagreed saying that any system (Monarchy, Democracy, Socialist, etc) would thrive if God was made the cornerstone and any system would become corrupt and fail if God wasn’t made the cornerstone (or was removed as the cornerstone). Pretty telling.

        I guess the next question would be – If all had God as their cornerstone then which would succeed best at governance. Gunter Bechly surprised me when he wrote on his website that he considered democracy one of the worst forms of government and preferred the ancient method of divine right of Kings. (Him being a former atheistic, government sponsored, German scientist, I can’t help but think this opinion must have formed after his recent conversion to Christ)

        1. Jay Wile says:

          It’s an interesting question. I tend to agree that the people are more important than the actual form of government, but at the same time, I think some forms of government are more easily affected by a few bad people. I would think a Monarchy would be more easily corrupted than a Democracy, for example.

          I would think that if everyone were genuinely looking to the Lord for guidance, socialism would be the ideal. After all, that’s what the early church practiced (Acts 2:44-46). The problem is that in any big community, there will be many that are not genuinely looking to the Lord and will immorally game the system. That can bring the entire system down.

        2. John D says:

          Good point… and I totally agree. There are some great examples of socialist / communal / Co-Op structures operating within the democratic capitalist system. But I think the many Christians who advocate for a national socialist government based on the early Church should remember that the practice was cloistered and that constituents could be ejected if they weren’t pulling their weight or remaining faithful to the cause. In the case of a national Socialist government, you can’t really eject your citizens (or if you did, it would have to be through drastic measures – prison, removal from national soil, etc.)

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