Ah, "the power behind the throne". Wouldn't that be nice? ;-) Alas!
The (Bavarian) Illuminati certainly were interesting figures, and most definitely were Enlightenment rationalists--radical rationalists, some have said--whose purpose was the abolishment of all monarchical governments and state religions in Europe in the 18th Century. As they formed a secret and secretive society whose methods involved setting up a complex, cellularized network of spies and counter-spies to work against the Powers that Were, they certainly have been the inspiration of many a great conspiracy theory. But as Thomas Jefferson wrote of their founder, "As Weishaupt lived under the tyranny of a despot and priests, he knew that caution was necessary even in spreading information, and the principles of pure morality. This has given an air of mystery to his views, was the foundation of his banishment.... If Weishaupt had written here, where no secrecy is necessary in our endeavors to render men wise and virtuous, he would not have thought of any secret machinery for that purpose."
Weishaupt was a bit of a back-to-nature anarchist, and no friend of the Church, but as he himself wrote: "I did not bring Deism into Bavaria more than into Rome. I found it here, in great vigour, more abounding than in any of the neighboring Protestant States." Weishaupt was interested in using education to bring about "illumination, enlightening the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice".
The Brights certainly draw on Enlightenment imagery, and our endeavor most definitely has an educational focus: "Enbrightenment! This rhetorical expression hearkens to a once promising time on earth when it looked as if science and reason would offer a key to the future. During the period many call the Age of Enlightenment, it was possible to envision a world wherein humankind itself might acquire understanding of nature, gain insight into humanity, make meaning of life, and work for a better and brighter future for all." http://the-brights.net/vision/symbolism.html
Thankfully, many of us, especially here in the West, have little need anymore for secret handshakes and back-alley meetings. Instead, we encourage brights to speak openly about their worldviews, to abolish inaccurate and unfair stereotypes and work toward a world where the items on offer in the marketplace of ideas are fairly priced:
I agree completely. I joined the Brights, but I also hate the name. It is cocky, and implies that we are smarter than everyone else. While I find religion foolish, I also find it condescending when they start a conversation with me from their high and mighty pulpit. Is not starting a conversation from the position of "Bright" a similar high place? I like the goal, but not the name.