Former Australian politician Bill Hayden was an atheist all of his life.
But at the age of 85, he turned to God and converted to Christianity.
Hayden was raised by a loving Catholic mother and an abusive father who was an atheist. His father’s strong opposition toward religion had a long-lasting influence on Hayden throughout his life. “I was exposed to and understood what family violence was about,” he said.
He joined the navy, then became a police officer. During that time, Hayden studied economics and joined the Australian political party.
His dislike for the church was tested after the death of his 5-year-old daughter, Michaela, when she was coming home from Sunday school in 1966.
Hayden could not find solace in prayer while mourning the loss of his daughter. “People were writing to me and saying, God in His inscrutable way, does these things and you shouldn’t ask why. He does it for a good reason,” he explained.
When he worked as a policeman, his mother told him that “there’s no such thing as boys that are born mad. The way that people turn out in their lives is determined by their experiences when they are young,” he said.
Hayden explained that a number of factors contributed to his atheism.
“My father was a determined atheist. Noah and the Ark was a tall story. They wouldn’t know how to make big ships as big as that one and take one of every creature. They wouldn’t be able to cut the timber, big enough planks and they wouldn’t know how to make steel sheets. I didn’t believe it.”
His understanding of faith began to take shape after meeting Sister Mary Angela Doyle. Her influence came while Hayden was pushing for the introduction of Medibank, now called Medicare.
Sister Mary Angela Doyle contacted Hayden and said that she supported his efforts to build Medibank. “She helped me to get a reputation for which I am proud of. She had a profound influence on me. She’s part of the influence that caused me to become a Catholic, a big part of it,” he added.
“She made me in a way. It was a big breakthrough I was looking for. I wasn’t getting a breakthrough anywhere. God was unreasonable on those things,” he concluded.
Hayden recalled having a conversation with his wife Dallas. “I don’t know if I can keep doing this. I told her I wanted to change,” he said. “It was a big turnaround from where I’d been for so many years and for what I believed in. It wasn’t easy for me to change my belief to Christian belief.”
When asked what advice he could give others who are considering conversion, he said, “if you are thinking about it, which I had been doing for some time, stop thinking about it, do something about it.”
“I feel better now. In my body, I feel much better and in my mind. I’m looking forward to playing a more active role in the church in Ipswich. I’m part of the church and I feel better for acknowledging that part of it. I’m just another fallible human being. There is only one star in our lives and that’s Jesus Christ,” he concluded.
Watch the full interview with Bill Hayden and Mark Bowling with Star of the World on YouTube.