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10 Interesting Facts About the Amish


The Roots

The roots of the Amish religion are found in the Anabaptist movement, which was a splinter

group that emerged during the Protestant Reformation in 1525.

The Anabaptists are firm pacifists and they strongly believe in the separation of church

and state.

However, the biggest difference between the Anabaptists and other Christian sects is that

they perform adult baptisms.

While this may seem like a minor difference to us, adult baptism was against the laws

of the Catholicism and it was punishable by death.

As a result, the Anabaptists faced terrible persecution, so the Anabaptists were forced

to practice in secrecy.

One of the earliest groups of Anabaptists was led by a former Catholic Priest, Dutch-born

Menno Simon and his followers would go on to be called Mennonites.

Then, in 1677, a Swiss man named Jakob Ammann joined the Mennonites and he eventually became

the leader of the Swiss Mennonites.

In 1693, Ammann decided to shake things up a little bit and introduced some new rules.

Notably, he thought that men should stop trimming their beards and his congregation should stop

wearing fashionable clothes.

However, his most polarizing new rule was that excommunicated members should be shunned.

If someone was kicked out of the church, they were essentially dead to everyone in the church,

which is usually all their friends and family.

His proclamations were controversial, and it caused a schism in the religion.

The people who followed Ammann became the Amish.

Over the next several centuries, the Amish continued to be persecuted in Europe.

Then In 1737, 21 Amish families came from the Netherlands and settled in Pennsylvania

before expanding out to the rest of America.

In 2012, there were Amish people living in 28 states and in Ontario, Canada.


The Difference Between Amish and Mennonite

There is often a lot of confusion about whether the Amish and the Mennonites practice the

same religion.

And if they dont, then what is the difference?

Well, in the prior entry, we mentioned the Amish splintered off from the Mennonites in


After the schism, the Mennonites continued to grow and expand and there are about a dozen

subgroups that can be divided into two different groupsplain clothes Mennonites and assimilated


Assimilated Mennonites use technology, pursue higher education, and wear modern clothing.

The plain clothes Mennonites can be split into two subgroupsthose who use horses

and buggies and those who use vehicles.

Obviously, the horse and buggy Mennonites get confused with the Amish.

Where they differ is that the men dont have beards and the women can have patterns

on their dress.

They can also use modern technology like air travel and electricity, including television

and the internet, although they may limit access.

Another fundamental difference between the Amish and all Mennonites is their place of


The Amish meet to worship in the homes and barns of their followers and the Mennonites

have meetinghouses.

The final differences are their geography and the size of their populations.

Mennonites came to North America in 1683, 10 years before the Amish splintered off.

The first Mennonites settled Germantown, which eventually became a borough of Philadelphia.

When it comes to the sizes of their congregation, there are many more Mennonite people in North

America than Amish people, totaling about 800,000.

Also, the Amish are only found in North America, whereas Mennonite communities are found in

51 different countries on six different continents.



Clearly, the Amish life isnt for everyone.

The Amish also know this and that is why they give young adults, starting at the age of

16, a chance to experience the outside world in a period known as Rumspringa.

The experience is more often undertaken by males than females and during this time, they

are given more freedom from their parents.

Also, since they are not yet baptized, they arent under the rule of the church and

this gives them freedom from that rule.

What young Amish people do while on Rumspringa can vary.

Some wear modern clothes, go to the movies, and drive cars.

However, in some cases, Amish people on Rumspringa party hard and get involved in drugs, sex,

and alcohol.

After experiencing the outside world, the young people have to choose if they want to

be baptized.

If they choose to be baptized, they will have to confess their sins and after the baptism,

they can get married.

If someone chooses not to be baptized, they have to move out of the community, but they

are not shunned like people who are ex-communicated and they can stay in contact with their Amish

friends and family.

That is because the Amish value that people choose to be baptized and want to dedicate

their lives to their faith.


Amish Music

While music is a celebrated art form in many religions, the Amish are not permitted to

play instruments or listen to music unless it comes from their songbook called Ausbund.

In the book, which is the oldest songbook still in continuous use, there are no musical


Instead, the tunes of the songs are passed down through generations.

The reason the Amish arent allowed to play instruments is because its self-expression

and that could lead to feelings of pride and superiority.

Yes, that may seem harsh, but if youve ever spent any time with a musician with a

small amount of recognition, youll know that the Amish are right about that.

As for the themes of the songs, they are exactly what you would expect from simple-living and

hardworking people who were violently persecuted for centuries.

Its all about sunshine, flowers, and rainbows.

Just kidding, its about martyrdom and the hardship of persecution.


Faceless Dolls

The Amish arent exactly known for being fun-loving people.

However, that doesnt mean Amish children have to go without toys.

One of the most popular toys used by little Amish children are dolls that dont have


While there is no official story of where the faceless dolls came from, they manage

to embody a lot of the tenets of the Amish religion.

The first is that the Amish believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

Without an identity, the doll reinforces the notion that we are all the same to God.

The second part comes from the Book of Deuteronomy, which says: “Thou shalt not make thee any

graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the

earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth.”

The Amish have interpreted this to mean that humans should not make objects that look like


However, without a face, the dolls arent real representations of humans.

Finally, the Amish will go to great length to avoid sinning, and having a fancy doll

would be a sign of vanity, where the plainness of the doll are a representation of the Amishs



Pictures (or Lack Thereof)

If you were invited into the home of an Amish family, besides the fact that they dont

have a TV or any electronics, another thing you may notice is that there are no personal

pictures, like wedding pictures or baby pictures.

That is because pictures violate several tenets of their faith.

First, they believe that pictures of people emphasizes individuality and the Amish believe

that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

Secondly, an important rule is not to make graven images, and they believe that pictures

violate that rule.

Finally, Amish people want to be remembered for their contributions and the way they lived

rather than their physical appearance.

However, its important to clarify that its not against their religion to appear

in pictures, but it is against their religion to pose for a picture.

So if you happen to be traveling in Amish country, which can be tourist attractions,

and want to take some pictures, the Amish people would prefer not to be in them.

However, if you have to have a picture of Amish people, ask if you can take their picture,

but dont ask them to pose.

Lastly, if possible, please take the picture so their faces arent recognizable.


Relationship with Technology

By far, what sets Amish people apart from many other people in society is that they

do not embrace technology.

The reason they do this isnt because they think its evil, instead, they worry that

it will lead to assimilation with the rest of society, and being their own separate independent

community is a tenet of the Amish faith.

This is the reason they do not embrace any sort of mass media like television, pop-music,

and the internet.

If they do use electricity, it is often propane, battery, or solar powered and it does not

come from public utility lines.

For example, lights on their buggies that are powered by batteries that are charged

with solar panels are perfectly acceptable.

When the Amish determine if they will embrace a new technology they first discuss if the

community will use it.

They do not automatically accept that new is always better, like many other people in


Since they discuss it in their community and there is no higher Earthly governing body,

like the Pope for the Catholic Church, technology use varies from subgroup to subgroup.

For example, the most conservative group of the Old Order Amish is the Swartzentruber

Amish, who mostly live in Holmes County, Ohio, have no modern luxuries including indoor plumbing.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Lancaster Amish, which is the biggest subgroup of Old

Order Amish.

They have indoor plumbing, they use their own self-generated electricity, and they use

pneumatic tools.

Also, there are no Biblical or religious reasons that prohibit the use of modern medical technologies,

so what extent of medical care an Amish person wants to take advantage of usually depends

on the family.


The Amish Have Higher Rates of Genetic Disease

The Amish are a unique Christian subgroup, because they do not try to attract new members.

Yes, people do convert, but its pretty rare.

Whats interesting is that while they do not get a lot of new members, the churchs

population doubles every generation.

In the early 1900s, there were about 5,000 Amish people living in North America, but

today there is 250,000.

This happened because they have a retention rate of 80 to 90 percent and then couples

have six or seven children.

The problem with this system of population growth is that it creates a shallow genetic

gene pool and this creates a genetic bottleneck called founders effect.

When there is a bottleneck, genetic defects have a greater chance of being passed along

to the next generation.

In the Amish population, founders effect increases the likelihood that Amish offspring

will inherit rare genetic diseases.

Some of these diseases are so rare that they dont even have names and they can leave

the person crippled.

Other diseases that are known and that are common among the Amish are Severe Combined

Immunodeficiency, which is colloquially known asbubble boy disease;” Cohens Syndrome,

a disease that affects muscle skills and mental development; and dwarfism.

One such person who was Amish and has a genetic disease caused by founders effect is Verne

Troyer, who is best known for being Mini-Me in the Austin Powers series.

Sadly, genetic diseases are such a problem among the Amish that a special facility, the

Clinic for Special Children, was opened in 1989 in Pennsylvania to treat and study the

genetic diseases that affect the Amish community.


The Amish Have Lower Rates of Cancer, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease

While the Amish have a greater risk of getting genetic diseases, their lifestyle also does

appear to have several health benefits because they have lower rates of cancer, diabetes,

and cardiovascular disease.

There are several explanations for this, however, researchers believe the main reason is the

lifestyle that the Amish live.

Notably, tobacco and alcohol are prohibited.

They also eat food that they grow themselves, so they eat very little, if any, processed


Also, their work is very active, so everyone gets plenty of exercise.

As a result of their diet and the amount of physical activity they get, sometimes Amish

people are overweight, but obesity is rare.

The Amish also live in a rural setting, so they are further away from pollutants.

Finally, while the Amish life isnt completely stressed-free, people live and work in a very

supportive community.

This would lower overall stress and when problems do happen, there is a large support network.

Finally, it is possible that there is something in their genetics that helps lower the cancer

rate and research is currently being performed on Amish peoples genetics that could have

wide reaching effects on the treatment of genetic diseases in the general population.


How do You Become One?

After reading all of this information, you may be thinking that the Amish life is great,

and you want to join the fight.

If you do, what you need is time and dedication and to get rid of the whatever piece of technology

youre using to read this list.

First, you need to live in the Amish community for a year.

Some Amish families will even allow potential converts to live with them for this year.

During this time, new converts must attend home worship service every Sunday and find

a job working with Amish people.

They also have to learn to speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a variation of German.

This is the language that is most commonly spoken in Amish households.

In fact, children learn Pennsylvania Dutch first and then learn English when they attend


After all that, and the person is sure that they still want to be Amish, they go through

another period where they learn the ordinances of the church.

Finally, the members of the church vote on the candidate, and if the vote is affirmed,

the person becomes a full-fledged Amish.

Obviously, due to the drastically different lifestyle from contemporary society, only

several dozen non-Amish have joined

the fight.

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