38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow

Trista - February 22, 2019

The Amish are part of a distinct religious community that follows a way of life far different from that of many contemporary people. Because most people do not understand their beliefs, which are reflected in their ways of life, the Amish are often viewed as less intelligent or strange. Keep reading to learn more about the Amish lifestyle.


38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A family of Amish people riding in a horse and buggy. Variety KC.

38. The Amish Are Anabaptist

They are Christians who don’t just espouse more traditional beliefs but also a much more traditional way of life. They are composed of two main groups, the Old Order Amish (who are much more conventional and largely abstain from any modern conveniences, including electricity) and Amish Mennonites (who embrace nonviolence as the core of their traditional ethic). In addition to a Biblical way of life, the Old Order Amish seek to preserve 17th century rural European culture.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A map detailing the spread of Anabaptist communities throughout Europe. Wikimedia Commons.

37. They Originated in Europe

Jakob Ammann was a European Mennonite who founded the Amish church. The early Mennonites were largely settled in Switzerland, Alsace and southern Germany. Ammann’s beliefs were at odds with more mainstream Anabaptists, which prompted his followers to move to the New World. They eventually settled down in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the largest Amish communities can still be found today. Their name, Amish, came from an originally derisive German term used as a name of shame by Jakob Ammann’s opponents.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A sketch of Amish founder Jakob Ammann. Wikipedia.

36. Baptism is Central to Anabaptists

The Anabaptist denomination began about the same time as the Protestant Reformation, a period of intense conflict between the Catholic church and those who opposed its teachings and corrupt practices. The Anabaptists believed that true baptism must be preceded by faith in Jesus Christ, something that an infant cannot profess. Therefore, the Anabaptists did not baptize infants. “Anabaptist” literally means “baptize again,” as many were baptized for a second time, this time as believing adults rather than infants.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish baptism. Sportingz.

35. Amish Baptisms Usually Do Not Occur Until Age 18

Because a conscious faith decision is required before an Anabaptist can be publicly baptized, Amish believers usually do not undergo baptism until they are between the ages of about 18 to 25. Waiting until they are older to be baptized helps ensure that they have made a genuine decision rather than just trying to please their parents or following the traditions of the community. People are not considered a full member of the church until this adult baptism.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A picture of the territory known as Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. TripSavvy.

34. Old-Order Amish Largely Speak Pennsylvania Dutch

Pennsylvania Dutch isn’t derived from Dutch, the language of the Netherlands. Instead, it comes from “Deutsch,” the German self-identifier. Pennsylvania Dutch is an entirely different dialect than standard German. After World War II, the language mostly fell out of favor except among the more traditional, old-order Amish. Religious services are often conducted in High German, of which Pennsylvania “Dutch” is a dialect.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish women in Pennsylvania. ABC News.

33. Pennsylvania Dutch Has Different Dialects

The different variations in Amish practice – attributed mainly to different geographic regions – led to different dialects of Pennsylvania Dutch. The most common idiom is the Alemannic, which has two different sub-dialects. Use of language is just one way that the Amish have maintained their own culture while developing distinct subcultures from within. Many Amish communities now use a mixture of High German, various regional German dialects, and English at home.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An article about Amish people in The Philadelphia Inquirer. PBS.

32. Shunning Is A Real Thing

Anabaptists are literalists in regards to Biblical interpretation. In addition to adult baptism, Amish communities believe in using excommunication, a means by which a member becomes excluded from a faith community due to sinful behavior. A major splintering of the Anabaptists in Germany was focused around the Amish denying even common meal sharing to excommunicated people. Shunning, public shaming of an individual, can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the act that a person performed.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish carriage store with an Amish family purchasing some goods. USA Today.

31. Pacifism and Nonviolence are Essential to the Amish Way of Life

A hallmark of the Anabaptist faith is traditionally nonviolence, although small sects of radical Anabaptists have historically embraced violence as a means to defend their faith. As Anabaptists, the Amish adamantly oppose any form of violence, to the extent that they will defy the government. They are conscientious objectors to military service, and while they are required to register for selective service, would likely refuse a military draft as many have in the past. When the Indian Removal Act was initiated, many Amish families took Native Americans into their homes in defiance of the government.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish men taking a break outdoors. Lake Cumberland Vacation.

30. Amish Communities Have Codes of Conduct

In addition to the Bible, Amish communities have an unofficial code, known as Ordnung, that governs many aspects of their daily lives. Different communities operate under different variations of Ordnung, some of which are stricter, while others are more lenient. All Ordnung codes emphasize humility and modesty in all areas of life, and are intended to integrate Biblical law into daily life.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish boy hiding his face from the camera. Pinterest.

29. Many Amish Object to Photography

The Ten Commandments explicitly forbid “graven images,” usually understood as a reference to idolatry. A more literal interpretation of this commandment leads many communities to prohibit photography, even among nosy tourists who want to capture them in still life. Some have a more lenient view, in which they can be pictured when not posing or with their faces covered. However, it is always recommended to ask politely if one can take a photograph when interacting with Amish people.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish faceless dolls. mtmtv.info.

28. Children Play With Faceless Dolls

In addition to avoiding photography, Amish families strive to follow the command to have no graven image by making faceless dolls for their children to play with. In addition to promoting modesty and humility, these dolls are equalizers: no child can say that his or her baby is prettier or uglier than another one. These dolls also embody the unadorned, simple physical style of the Amish themselves, with no ornamentation or jewelry being allowed.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish couple riding in a horse and buggy carriage. Medium.

27. Amish Weddings Are Very Modest

Amish people only marry within their own communities, and then only after someone has accepted the faith and been baptized. Ordnung prohibits jewelry, due to numerous Biblical references to not letting one’s adorning being external through gold or jewels, so the bride and groom don’t exchange rings; they also decorate with celery instead of with flowers. Instead of a honeymoon, the newlyweds spend time visiting family and friends.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A group of Amish girls. Flickr.

26. Women Sew Their Own Clothes

In order to maintain a simple, Biblical lifestyle, Amish women sew their own clothes, traditionally from one single color and likely woven of one fabric to comply with the laws in Leviticus. They do not use any accessories, usually not even buttons. In preparation for a wedding, a bride might sew her own formal dress, which will be used on other occasions, as well. Because married women do not wear rings, they often wear black bonnets.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish man with a long beard. Genetic Library Project.

25. Men Symbolize Marriage With a Beard

While married women wear black bonnets instead of a wedding band, their male counterparts grow the customary long beards. They don’t grow mustaches, as mustaches are seen as being associated with soldiers in European militaries. If a man doesn’t get married, he is not permitted to grow a beard until he is 40 years old. Beards are such a large part of the Amish male identity that a 2014 rash of beard cutting incidents between opposing US Amish communities initially led to hate crime charges.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish family. Kim Vogel Sawyer.

24. Amish Families Tend to be Quite Large

There is a verse in Genesis in which God commands people to be fruitful and multiply; as Biblical literalists, Amish families take this command quite seriously. Every eight years, the Amish population grows by 3 to 5 percent; this growth is due not to conversion but rather to the large number of children that Amish families have. They share this literal interpretation with the Quiverfull movement, that encourages large families based on Psalm 127:3-5, which refers to children as the arrows in a full quiver.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Three little Amish girls playing outside. Flickr.

23. They Face Unique Health Problems

The original Amish community consisted of only about 200 Swiss German immigrants, and there isn’t a sizeable number of converts. As a result, some rare genetic diseases tend to propagate only within Amish communities. Amish infants have higher mortality rates because the genetic disorders that they face are so rare. Dwarfism, Angelman syndrome, and some metabolic disorders are all more common among the Amish.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish woman hanging laundry outside to dry. BabyGaga.

22. Their Lifestyles Are Very Clean and Healthy

Despite the higher rates of some genetic health problems, Amish communities typically enjoy excellent health as a result of their extremely traditional lifestyles. They have much lower rates of cancer, and other diseases that are caused are exacerbated by lifestyle, as they have exceptionally healthy active lifestyles. Since the Bible warns heavily against sloth and idleness, the Amish are renowned for their hard and capable work including their famously fast barn-raisings.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish congregation. Conrad Grebel.

21. Amish Churches are Virtually Nonexistent

Instead of “going to church,” Amish people set aside Sundays for worshiping and fellowshipping with each other, usually at one of the community members’ homes. Their practice of faith is much more organic and community-centric than that of other religious groups that rely on a central building. This harkens back to the Anabaptist Radical Reformation, which saw the rejection of the idea that the church visible and church invisible were separate, meaning that any gathering of the faithful was a church indeed.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A young boy with Ellis van Creveld syndrome, which gives him an extra finger. YouTube.

20. Having an Extra Digit is Not Uncommon

One common genetic abnormality among Amish communities is called Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, and it causes polydactyly, usually expressed as the presence of an extra digit. Amish parents are not often surprised to hear that their precious bundles of joy have eleven fingers or eleven toes. The condition is harmless, and in areas with a high prevalence, does not even lead to social stigma.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish men building a barn together. The $800 Liveaboard.

19. There Is Nothing Like An Old-Fashioned Barn-Raising

Amish communities mostly avoid modern technology (though some more progressive ones allow some amenities, like light bulbs), so constructing buildings is usually a community event. A barn-raising is often a means of bringing an entire community together to do something constructive that will benefit everyone. This sense of community cooperation and enrichment is a pillar of Anabaptist belief and present in other Anabaptist communities like Hutterites and Mennonites.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish music festival. Finding Neverland Blog.

18. Amish People Do Enjoy Music

However, in order to encourage modesty and humility, the only instrument that is permitted is the human voice. Musical instruments, like the piano or drums, can become sources of pride and vanity. Songs are always sung in unison and never harmonized, which is an expression of the value of simplicity and conformity. Amish music is typically Germanic in origin, and includes some ancient singing styles not found elsewhere.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish children at school. Swiss Info.

17. Formal Education Ends at Eighth Grade

After the eighth grade, Amish teenagers begin to engage in vocational training so that they can learn a trade to support themselves and their families eventually. Additionally, the cessation of formal schooling helps to prevent “anti-Christian” ideas, like the teaching of evolutionism or too liberal a view of human reproduction. The instruction takes place in English and focuses on reading, math, writing, Amish history, practical farming, and homemaking skills.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A drawing of an anabaptist baptism. The End-Time Program/All Posters.

16. Conversions Are Very Rare

For many faith communities, the only thing that a person has to do to convert is to agree to the religious creed. For a person to turn to the Amish faith, he or she must live with an Amish family to show the community that he or she has left behind modern technologies and luxuries to embrace a simpler life. Unlike the evangelism of many Christian faiths, the Amish prefer to let their light shine without blinding others, and do not seek out converts.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An older Amish man woodworking to build a piece of furniture. YouTube.

15. Building Furniture is a Way of Life

Since vocational training begins at an early age, most Amish children have learned a trade before reaching adulthood. As such, this particular trade is not so much a job as it is a way of life. This concept is especially true in woodworking and building furniture. Amish furniture is renowned worldwide for its high quality. Furniture, as well as quilts and baked goods, often serve as the main source of external income for Amish communities.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A group of Amish people looking at a cell phone for the first time. Reddit.

14. Technology is Largely Avoided

Although some progressive Amish communities permit a limited amount of technology, more traditional societies do not even allow the use of electricity. Innovation is not typically valued. The intent is to avoid any secular values and live a life as closely following biblical principles as possible. However, given modern advancements, even some hardline Amish communities will grant the right to use electricity for community members requiring lifesaving medical devices that cannot operate without it.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A horse and buggy typically used by Amish people for transportation. Wikipedia.

13. Transportation Involves a Horse and Buggy

Perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Amish community is the horse and buggy. This image is because Amish people abscond from the use of modern technology, including things like cars, trains, and airplanes. They prefer to remain interdependent on other members of the community rather than rely on technologies that make people dependent on them.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish girl in a field in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Natural News.

12. They Do Use Modern Medicine

Despite a general shunning of any modern amenities, Amish people are generally accepting of modern medicine, but with a nuanced approach. Biblical rules about things like blood transfusions must be followed. Instead of purchasing health insurance, members of the community often come together to cover the cost of a medical bill. Some hospitals in areas with large Amish populations have opened centers catering to the simple way of life of their patients.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Young Amish boys. News.com.au.

11. Rumspringa Happens Before Baptism

To ensure that a person has made a genuine decision to become a full-fledged member of the faith community, adolescents typically are allowed greater freedom from the Ordnung’s governance than fully-fledged members of the church. While popular culture envisions Rumspringa as a hedonistic trip through outside, or “English” society, teenagers in Rumspringa don’t usually follow a rock-and-roll lifestyle. Rather, they may simply dress in a more relaxed manner or not attend as many prayer meetings while enjoying their teenage rebellion.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Two Amish girls talking to each other. Flickr.

10. Feminism is Not Recognized

The strict Amish way of life means that women have a much more traditional role of being housewives. Decision-making is left to their husbands, and the women usually remain busy with cooking, cleaning, raising children, and helping neighbors. They are not allowed to hold jobs, even as religious leaders, as men hold these positions. This is unsurprising, given their Biblical lifestyle, as the Bible makes it abundantly clear that men are to be the heads of their communities and families. In fact, men are considered to be a spiritual failure if they refuse the burden of leading and protecting their family.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish couple has a wooden device preventing them from engaging in premarital intercourse. History and Other Thoughts.

9. Bundling Helps Prevent Premarital Sex

Bundling is a practice in which a young man and woman who are not yet married can get to know each other without engaging in premarital sex. They are put in a bed together but wrapped in separate blankets. There may even be a wooden divider between the two partners. This practice began in Europe, but was maintained largely by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Nebraska Amish might still continue the practice today.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish funeral. Mark Wilson/Mark Wilson.

8. Funerals Are Modest Affairs

Like weddings and other ceremonies of significant life events, funerals are modest, usually held in someone’s home. As in all other aspects of Amish life, simplicity, humility, and modesty are represented in burials. A horse and buggy function as a hearse to carry the coffin to an Amish cemetery. The grave may be marked with nothing more than a wooden cross, which will eventually decay. This is consistent with their Anabaptist roots against idolatry and graven images.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish woman sewing a quilt. Pinterest.

7. Amish Quilts Are World-Renowned

While Amish boys are usually taught woodworking skills, Amish girls learn how to sew. Amish quilts are almost as coveted as Amish furniture. They feature ornate, colorful designs. Surprisingly, though, the quilts that are made for themselves are quite plain and simple, and the colorful ones are made for consumers. Quilt-making is a form of socialization and relaxation for Amish women, and the finished products represent the communal and cooperative spirit of their community.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Para-Amish Chris Hondros. Getty Images.

6. Para-Amish Groups Exist

There are sizeable communities that exist outside of the profoundly traditional Amish way of life, but that still adhere to a simpler, “unworldly” lifestyle and strict faith. They may have faith creeds that lie outside of Amish beliefs. These groups are often referred to as being “para-Amish,” as they are not Amish but have Amish qualities. They are also sometimes referred to as the “Plain” people, a name which can include Hutterite and Mennonite groups as well.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Amish ladies cooking food. Amish365.

5. Amish Food is Simple But Hearty

Amish communities usually grow their own foods on their family farms. The main staple of Amish cuisine is soup – lots and lots of soup. An Amish meal will typically feature apples (which are plentiful in Pennsylvania), potatoes, and chicken. There are no chemicals or preservatives in these ultimate comfort foods. The Amish are excellent farmers and gardeners, and often grow and preserve all of the food their families need themselves. One Amish woman, Elizabeth Coblenz, published popular cookbooks of Amish food.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
An Amish girl washes someone’s feet as part of the communion tradition. The Amish Lifestyle.

4. Communion Happens in the Spring or Fall

Much of Amish life, especially religious traditions, are informal but heavily ingrained within the community. One of these practices is the ritual of communion. Many Christians usually have it at a designated time, but Amish elders determine when their churches will hold communion. During the ceremony, men and women are separate from each other. One unique element to Amish communion is the foot washing ritual Jesus practiced, which Jakob Ammann was adamant about including in his vision of Anabaptism.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A silhouette of older Amish men. Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

3. Retirement is Another Stage of Life

In Amish communities, retirement is a very personal decision. While the retired person may no longer partake in a trade full-time, he or she usually moves next door to the kids and works full-time as a grandparent. Retired people often stay healthy and active by continuing to work on the family farms. The Amish embody the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, with retired community members helping a great deal with child care.

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
Three little Amish boys. Pinterest.

2. Congregations Are Determined By Geography

Often, Christians determine which church to attend after visiting several. They will most likely then pick which one suits them best. For Amish people, however, the congregation that they belong to depends on the geographic area in which they live. Families that live within a specific space attend the same house church, presided over by a bishop, two to four preachers, and a community elder. There is no formal church building, church governing council, or any of the other church structures familiar to modern Christians. .

38 Beliefs And Ways Of Life The Amish Strictly Follow
A group of young Amish people. Pinterest.

1. Amish Communities Don’t Try to Convert Others

With half a dozen children in the average family and 90% of children choosing to remain Amish as adults, Amish communities are in no danger of dying out. While many other Christian denominations are shrinking and attempt to grow via conversion and evangelism, the Amish usually tend to their own affairs. While many Anabaptist groups do historically encourage evangelism, the Amish way of life specifically caters to a form of quiet witness of their faith.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“Interesting insights on the Amish,” by Brian Parchmann. History 101. December 12, 2018.

“Amish.” Wikipedia.

“Amish” Encyclopedia Britannica authors. n.d.

“The Amish: history, beliefs, practices, conflicts, etc.” Religious Tolerance authors, n.d.

“The Amish” BBC Religions contributors. June 2009.