21 Fascinating Facts About Amish Beliefs and Culture

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.

Photo: Bruce Fingerhood / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

  • The Amish Have A Lot Of Babies

    Inspired by the Bible's call to "be fruitful and multiply," the Amish typically abstain from birth control, leading to a rapidly increasing population. With most Amish families in the U.S. averaging 6 or 7 children, the group's numbers have increased from approximately 180,000 in 2000 to nearly 320,000 in 2017.

    Unfortunately, some of these births are plagued by genetic defects. As a closed society, most Amish and Mennonite people are descendants of the original 200 families that first settled in America. Due to this limited gene pool, recessive genes linked to birth defects are frequently present in both parents of a given family, thus allowing the defects to be passed down.

  • The Ordnung Serves As An Unwritten Manual

    The Ordnung is a manual that governs all facets of Amish society. Taken from the German word for "order," the Ordnung exists only in the minds of those who subscribe to its practices. The set of unspoken rules outlines every rule of Amish life, from generalizations on how to practice religion to minute details about dress, carriage-design, and hairstyle. Violating these rules, some of which differ depending on the Amish district, can result in a member being shunned.

    Each district's distinct Ordnung has evolved over centuries and is gradually amended by church leadership as needed. As the Ordnung is not written down on any document, the Amish have relied on oral tradition to keep their unspoken precepts alive.

  • Rumspringa Allows Teens To Investigate Their Commitment To Their Faith

    Rumspringa Allows Teens To Investigate Their Commitment To Their Faith
    Photo: Pasteur / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Rumspringa, one of the most well-known and fascinating tenets of the Amish religion, can be translated as "running around." When Amish teens turn 16, they are allowed to experience the outside world and decide whether they still desire to live in the Amish community. While their families encourage them to behave morally, they are allowed to stretch and even break the rules of the Ordnung during this period. things like cars, modern clothes, drinking, and drugs. 

    As Amish teenagers have not been baptized into the church and are thus not yet official members, they may choose to leave the Amish community following Rumspringa without risking societal repercussions from family and friends.

    While young men and women may experiment with sex, drinking, or drugs during Rumspringa, as is often assumed, most experiences are relatively mild, and approximately 90% of Amish teens eventually commit fully to their faith.

  • The Amish Are Never Baptized Before Adulthood

    Rather than enforcing baptism upon its members, the Amish religion holds that baptism should be an individual choice. As such, they discourage young members from making the decision flippantly––they believe baptism is a lifelong commitment. This view is similar to the beliefs of most Anabaptists, the religion from which the Amish are derived. 

    Members of the Amish community may not be baptized before the age of 16 and generally don't make their decision until they are between the ages of 18 and 22.

  • 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

    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.