The Order of the Illuminati was an 18th-century secret society created by Adam Weishaupt. The organization, founded on May 1, 1776, was a product of The Enlightenment and featured various freethinkers and intellectuals of the time. Today, the group is known as the Bavarian Illuminati.
Weishaupt, who was the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, was extremely critical of the church, which held immense political power at the time. His vocal criticisms and conflicts with the Jesuits led him to create the Illuminati, a secret society of liberal-minded individuals who sought to bring about rationality. Weishaupt's organization did not require a belief in a supreme being, thus leading to a widespread belief that the Illuminati was designed to overthrow organized religion.
Legally, the Bavarian Illuminati was not allowed to operate; however, the organization grew quickly, amassing a following of nearly 2000 members from various parts of Europe. This rapid growth led the Bavarian ruler, Carl Theodore, to ban all secret societies in 1784. A year later, Theodore labeled the Illuminati an illegal organization and began hunting down members. By the late 1700s, the organization collapsed. Conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati still exists today and is operating secretly.