Acton Institute Powerblog

Recommended: ‘That Hideous Strength’

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I just finished re-reading through C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy” and have a Holiday book recommendation for you: the third title in this series, That Hideous Strength.

Certainly all three are fantastic and important reads that incorporate thematic elements relating to theology, philosophy, history, politics, economics and astronomy. It’s “Science Fiction,” but only in the same way that the Bible is “just a bunch of God’s rules.” These three books are bigger than any one genre and the Sci-fi label should not deter a single one of you from digging in.

But the reason I choose to highlight That Hideous Strength here at the blog of an organization dedicated to the advancement of limited government and “the free and virtuous society” is because Lewis tackles these very things in its pages. The novel’s various sub-plots give it its depth and richness, but the “A-story” is that of one progressive organization’s – The National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (or N.I.C.E) – rise to power under the guise of “we simply want to help humanity move forward by centralizing power and allowing our philosopher-kings and experts to run things.”  Sound familiar?

The deification of science. The religion of progress. The manipulation of the electorate via the press. The group-think of intellectuals at prestigious institutions of learning. The bizarre combination of insisting that you speak for the “common man” while at the same time despising him for his common and unsophisticated ways. The mockery of patriotism. The undermining of the Church and the family.

And at the heart of it all: mankind’s pride and defiant, fallen nature. The desire to supplant the Almighty and do what we can to avoid His holy gaze.

I’m telling you, That Hideous Strength is the most important novel you’ve never read. If you care about the things that The Acton Institute cares about, this is your book.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

R.J. Moeller R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at and Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.


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  • Emily Schatz

    I love these books wholeheartedly and I constantly bring them up in my thinking and writing. “Out of the Silent Planet” is the sweetest, “Perelandra” the most theological and beautiful, and “That Hideous Strength” by far the most bizarre. For a long time I could appreciate what Lewis says about marriage and the sexes, the desire for popularity and acceptance, and all the political dangers this article mentions, but I couldn’t tap what made the story hang together. Some of its events are so off-putting and weird that you wonder how they ever occurred to Lewis in the first place. (Probably in mythology somewhere, but that doesn’t help the man on the street.) This year, thanks to a lecture with an altogether different focus, I realized the book is Lewis’s warning about paganism. Technology and modernity can’t squelch man’s need to worship, but they can act as accomplices in his worship of himself, which is finally demonic. I agree the novel is important, but hailing it as Lewis’s version of 1984 leaves me a bit cold. It’s about “progressivism,” sure, but more fundamentally it’s about blasphemy and Babel, which are eternal temptations and not passing political agitations.