My mom knows I'm an atheist and that I'm writing a book about her scandalous cult-leading mother. She's bothered by the first and okay with the second. We ended up in a really constructive conversation last night about religious extremism. I told her that I'm planning on marketing my upcoming book to "moderate christians" because I think they need to wake up and take responsibility for the crazies in their flock. Oddly enough, she agrees. She's on the "leadership council" and "planning committee" of her Methodist church. She's been reading Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren and a few other books on rousting out the nutters. She says that Christians have failed, because the world can't recognize them by their fruits - they can still be racist, bigoted, rude, ignorant assholes, and she somehow thinks that their faith should make them better. Sadly she followed this up with "So the church has failed, because I don't think god failed." Oh well, she's partway there :)
It was very nice that we were able to reach an agreement. I said to her, "It's like Obama's comments on abortion - we can all agree that the goal is reducing the numbers of abortions and unwanted pregnancies, even if we disagree on the approach. We can both agree on the goal of reducing the number of religious nutjobs, even if we're coming at it from two different sides."
Oh, and I also (finally) managed to explain to her that atheists aren't all screaming "There is no god" and that atheism and agnosticism aren't mutually exclusive. I think she's much less concerned for my soul now that she knows I don't claim absolute knowledge that god doesn't exist (WTF?) And I was quite surprised to learn that she thinks atheists, buddhists, muslims, etc. might end up in heaven. She's quit being a Christian, IMO, and has become a Cultural Christian. It's only a half dozen steps away from atheist.