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21 Fascinating Facts About Amish Beliefs and Culture

Updated September 23, 2021 254.2k views21 items

For most of us, the only thing we know about the Amish is they probably won't be reading this list. Banned from technology and electricity, the Amish live a secluded life away from other Americans (known to them as the English). Because of this seclusion, the average person knows very few facts about the inner workings of the Amish religion and culture.

The Amish religion began in 16th century Europe, when Anabaptist leader Jakob Ammann formed his own community after his conservative beliefs created a schism in the Anabaptist faith. His teachings defined the values of the Amish religion; he literally put the "Am" in "Amish". Since the religion's founding, the Amish have grown in numbers, practicing the principles of their religion in many of the same ways the founders did centuries ago.

Most Amish people ended up in America, in particular as part of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. There are also Amish communities in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, and Canada. But what do the Amish believe? In order to find out, let’s let the least Amish thing on the planet, the Internet, be your guide. Check out all manner of information about Amish beliefs, Pennsylvania Dutch beliefs, and Amish religion facts below.

  • Members Can Be Excommunicated

    As evidenced by their solemnity regarding the commitment of baptism, the Amish have little tolerance for disrespect of their precepts among their members. Once a person becomes an official member of the Amish faith, they are expected to fully adhere to the rules of the Ordnung, as well as their religion's overt doctrine. If they fail to do so, and if they fail to repent for their wrongdoings, they risk ostracization and excommunication.

    When an Amish person is excommunicated, other members practice meidung, or shunning, a process that involves cutting off all communication with the offending member. The church congregation may no longer eat, sleep, or accept gifts from the shunned individual. Thogh this punishment may appear harsh, shunned Amish members are always welcomed back into the fold should they genuinely repent for their actions. 

  • Non-Violence Is A Significant Pillar Of Amish Beliefs

    Photo: Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Total Army Personnel Command / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Amish shun all forms of violence. Their commitment to this precept is so deep-seated that, as an organization, they refuse to serve in the military. Even further, they refuse to pursue any government or police jobs. Their interpretation of Jesus's teachings also prevents them from involving themselves in the court system in any capacity––they view litigation as a means of violence and aggression. 

  • Church Takes Place In The Home

    Unlike most Christians, the Amish hold religious services in homes rather than in churches. Members of Amish communities are divided geographically, with every family in a region hosting a church service at their home as part of a rotation. During the services, which can last up to three hours, men and women sit separately. Their sermons and songs are in Pennsylvania Dutch and German.

    The pastor often has to move between rooms to preach to people seated in different areas of the house. Pastors are not formally trained, but are drawn by lot from nominations by the congregation. Church is held every other Sunday, with lunch and time for socializing after the service. 

  • Schooling Stops At Eighth Grade

    Photo: Ernest Mettendorf / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Amish see little practical value in formal schooling beyond the 8th grade. Studying abstract subjects is seen as secondary to the essential skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students learn these subjects in addition to English and Pennsylvania Dutch (their version of German), in small schools comprised of only one or two rooms.

    Upon graduating from 8th grade, teens receive vocational training in agriculture, craftsmanship, or another profession held by a member of the community. From a religious standpoint, the Amish oppose higher learning because of its potential to foster anti-Christian ideas.