My mom is a Christian fundamentalist whackjob. My problem with fundamentalists is that you never actually have a relationship with them - they have a relationship with their imaginary friend, as defined by their pastors, and you only fit into their life in terms of your own relationship with their imaginary friend. It precludes them from truly being parents because the believe all of us a children of god - except the pastors who seem to assume the role of elder sibling, at best. You can't get their opinion on anything because their opinion does not exist - it is dictated by their pastor.
For most fundies, this system alleviates them of moral responsibility. If they have failed at anything in life they do not accept any direct accountability - it was either god's plan or they weren't faithful enough. If they weren't faithful enough then they need to develop their faith skills rather than their life skills. Even so, there always remains the possibility that the failure is what god wants for them and so it must actually be a good thing.
With my own mother, once she knew I didn't believe in her god, conversations all revolved around her trying to get me to believe. She would pull out a bible and just open it to a random page, then start reading allowed as she marched around the room. She would run and get some water and bless it to make holy water and then flick it at me, trying to speak in tongues. Finally I realized she just lived in a delusional world that would never make a direct connection with me. I haven't had a conversation with her since the late 90's.
If your mother can actually speak to you as a human being, and return her opinions and ideas to you and discuss them as a human being, well then cherish that. If she her mind is no longer her own then she is too far gone and I don't know any way of reaching her. Whether or not you spend time with her is really about you. If you find some comfort being near her then enjoy it. If you don't then don't be afraid to just walk away.
Very good post, Heather. I especially like the part about how they don't really connect with other people. It is so true--and so revealing. To them, other people are like two dimensional playing cards to be sorted into groups: Believer, non-believer, believer in the "right" church, believer in the "wrong" church, etc.
If you can have a relationship with your parents, then great. If not, then don't. If they are too difficult, then you should read "Toxic Parents", which can help you sort it out. In short, people don't have to be "qualified" to be parents, they just have to find someone dumb or horny enough to have sex with them. In some cases, a child must metaphorically "divorce" his or her parents simply to protect himself from the toxic effects of their problems.
If you talk to believing parents about religion, then don't expect to win. Just keep dropping those little thought barbs into their minds and hope they will actually start to think.
Whether or not your mom is willing to examine what you have to say, I don't know. It definitely appears as though she has had to deal with alot of negative events in her life, which may make it less likely that she would consider giving up the belief, no matter how illogical, that has probably helped her get through all the bad things.
The only advice I can give is to keep being as emotionally supportive to your mom as you can be, without sacrificing your own principles.
My mom sounds a lot like your mom. She was raised by her grandmother though in a Pentecostal church in Virginia and believes that is why she is the person she is now. We had a long talk a few months back because I have become more vocal about my beliefs. It bothered her that she thought I was criticizing her grandmother (who she loved as a mother) for how she raised her.
I explained to my mom that her grandmother raised her well in spite of what the Old Testament taught her. My mother is sweet, caring, generous, and hard working. I had to tell my mom that the Old Testament does not promote most of these qualities, and nor does it exemplify any kind of moral code that people should live by EVER. Luckily, my mom is pretty open-minded and was willing to hear me out. I don't know if she agreed with me at any point, but she was willing to listen and ask questions.
In the end, we came to a peaceful understanding. I made it clear that I am no different than I ever was, and asked her flat-out if she thought I was now a bad person, to which she answered 'no'. But I also had to agree to try not to convert her or "laugh" at her religion, and she did the same for me. Her decision to allow me my atheism contradicts her religion's beliefs. Yet, she was willing to compromise with me. I think that's a great sign. :)