They are real...but the aren't the architects behind the NWO CTer's imagine:
"The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, "enlightened") is a name given to several groups, both real (historical) and fictitious. Historically the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776."
"The movement was founded on May 1, 1776, in Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria) as the Order of the Illuminati, with an initial membership of five, by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt. It was made up of freethinkers as an offshoot of the Enlightenment and seems to have been modeled on the Freemasons. The Illuminati's members took a vow of secrecy and pledged obedience to their superiors. Members were divided into three main classes, each with several degrees, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges."
Like the Masons, it was one path to career advancement:
"This temporary success cannot hide the fact that the Illuminati order mainly consisted of quite subordinate academics who maybe joined the order especially in the hope of more career opportunities."
It was a club for rich people with obscure/occult intellectual interests, networking in business and politics.
The modern Illuminati is either tongue in cheek or an occult/new age group:
"In addition to the supposed shadowy and secret organization, several modern fraternal groups claim to be the "heirs" of the Bavarian Illuminati and have openly used the name "Illuminati" in founding their own rites. Some, such as the multiple groups that call themselves by some variation on "The Illuminati Order", use the name directly in the name of their organization, while others, such as the Ordo Templi Orientis, use the name as a grade of initiation within their organization."
They're as spooky as the moose lodge down the street. Or the local wiccan circle. A handful of conspiracy scam artists(David Icke, etc), (with of course no evidence) swiped the name to as a label for all that is wrong with the world.
Be kind to your enemies. It confuses them.