In a fascinating (but short) article on science fiction and religion, Glenn Harlan Reynolds says:
In the old days, religious pageantry – sometimes enhanced with psychoactive substances of different kinds, or with hypnotic music – was the most exciting thing people were likely to run across in their everyday life. Special costumes, masks, ceremonies, big fancy buildings, and so on all tended to create a sense of separation between the sacred and the ordinary, and to make religious ceremonies stick in people’s minds.
Now movies provide many of the same characteristics, in a more intense form. The synthetic experience of attending a film, with its arresting special effects, meticulously-planned shots and narrative, and music carefully designed to drive viewers’ emotions into the desired state, may have a similar effect, imprinting the message of the film into people’s minds at a level below consciousness, just as religious ceremonies have done for millennia.
I have no doubt this is very true. Now if only there was a science fiction convention every sunday morning…