The Amish are one of the longest-lived religious sects in American history. With a wide array of beliefs, similarities, and differences with other Christian denominations like Mennonites, the Amish are known to the culture at large — but not in exact detail.
For this reason, a lot of people want to know the answer to this question: What religions are similar to the Amish?
There are several answers to this, but first, we should clarify an important detail.
The Amish are not a full-fledged religion. They’re a denomination (Amish) of a denomination (Anabaptists) of a religion (Christianity). They follow the teachings of the Bible in their own, unique interpretation.
So while they may seem significantly different from modern Christians as a whole, the Amish are practicing Christians.
As a result, the question isn’t what “religions” are similar to the Amish since the Amish aren’t a religion.
A more specific question would be “What Christian denominations are similar to the Amish?”
Generally speaking, the answer lies in other Anabaptist sects, though there are other Christian denominations that have more in common with the Amish than may appear on the surface.
These are six denominations that share similarities with the Amish:
- Quakers (Friends)
- Brethren in Christ
- Mormons / Latter Day Saints
We’ll start with Mennonites.
Mennonites are the denomination from which the Amish arose. This is because the founder of the Amish — Jacob Ammon — started his life as a member of the Swiss Brethren, which was also called the Swiss Mennonites.
After breaking from the Swiss Brethren over disputes of biblical interpretations, Ammon left the Mennonite denomination to found his own group of followers.
Since then, Mennonites have further fractured into different groups, but none have been as extreme in their views as the Amish.
Mennonites share the Amish vision of being in the world but not of the world. However, Mennonites feel this is more of a spiritual calling while Amish interpret it as a demand to be separate from modern conveniences.
As a result, you can find Mennonites in more modern clothing and enjoying modern conveniences. The Amish continue to wear the black-and-white dress they’ve worn for centuries, and they forego conveniences like cars, electronics, and more.
There are some sub-denominations of Mennonites called Old Order Mennonites that follow similar rules in their lives, but they’re yet another, smaller group of Anabaptists who are separate from the Amish (even though they have similarities).
2. Quakers (Friends)
Quakers are a major Anabaptist sect that has been present throughout a large part of American history, especially in places like Pennsylvania.
Quakers believe whole-heartedly that there is literally some substance of God in every person, meaning that everyone has a unique worth to the world. As a result, they also believe that harming someone — or killing them — is an egregious sin.
The Quaker perspective on religion is more insulated than many other Anabaptist denominations. They focus more on the individual experience between someone and God as the source of discovering truth in the universe.
They also believe in the power of an individual’s conscience as it plays a role in morality as a whole.
With all of this in mind, the Quakers don’t have a whole lot in common with the Amish aside from their shared Anabaptist history.
However, they do share a philosophical similarity in emphasizing the importance of the self in having a relationship with God, along with the standard Anabaptist fare of non-violence and forgiveness.
For these small similarities, Quakers aren’t quite as fixated as removing themselves from the world as the Amish are. Instead, Quakers are known for their community outreach, peaceful philosophies, and welcoming congregations.
This attitude is derived from the official name of the Quakers: the Religious Society of Friends. “Quakers” was originally a derogatory nickname that the group embraced as they preached that the world should “tremble” at the word of God.
Hutterites are a decentralized, community-based group of Anabaptists who left their Mennonite roots around the same time as the Jacob Amman in the 1600s.
Hutterites are most similar to the Amish in that they’re considered “ethnoreligious” — a group of people who are unified in almost all aspects of their ethnic heritage and religious beliefs. There’s almost no variation in their beliefs or backgrounds, and if any differences arise, it’s usually grounds for people to leave the community than to inspire change within it.
As a result, the Hutterites are possibly the most similar to the Amish in terms of a one-for-one comparison, though Hutterites aren’t quite as extreme in terms of dress or detachment from the modern world.
Still, the principles are quite similar — almost identical — and they can apply to everything from common Anabaptist beliefs to the uncommon desire to somehow separate one’s self from the world.
Bruderhof is an Anabaptist breakaway denomination that was started in the 1920s, just before the Great Depression.
The concept of the Bruderhof is to live in a commune with like-minded individuals who pool their income, energy, and time to create a better life for one another.
Back then, this sounded like a good idea. It was probably much safer to pool resources in a community during the era of the extreme wealth of the Robber Barons than it was to try and subsist on the substandard wages and dangerous working circumstances of the time.
Today, this sounds more like a cult than a well-meaning community.
Incidentally, this is one common area of overlap that Bruderhof share with the Amish.
The Amish are reputed for pooling their resources in their communities to such an extent that they’ll forego health insurance. Instead, they all contribute to a fund in their community that allows them to provide for one another in the event that they need professional healthcare.
This exceptional level of togetherness is only possible because the Amish are united in their religious beliefs — very similar to what sociologists could call a cult. Members are commonly the children of members, and they’re indoctrinated from a young age to believe that their faith is an immutable truth, as opposed to one way of understanding the world.
Bruderhof may not be this extreme. But the emphasis on community-over-self exists with the prerequisite of faith.
In other words, joining the community requires a belief system and some level of personal submission, foregoing modern conveniences (like possessions), and more.
This may not be the strongest area of overlap between the two denominations — they share virtually all other Anabaptist beliefs — but it’s the most noteworthy in terms of interest to the American cultural status quo.
5. Brethren in Christ
The Brethren in Christ are a small Anabaptist denomination that has its roots in many different theological inspirations, including Mennonites.
The Brethren split from their original Anabaptist churches in the 1770s, just around the time of the founding of the United States. According to their history, the denomination started in the small town of Marietta, Pennsylvania and now has followers throughout the country.
The main area of similarity here is in the creation of the Brethren in Christ. Like the Amish, the Brethren left their original Anabaptist churches to pursue their own beliefs.
Unlike the Amish, they didn’t choose to limit themselves to a life of extreme simplicity.
Still, the Anabaptist roots run deeply for both Brethren and Amish. They’re both pacifist denominations, they emphasize the importance of family, and they follow the teachings of Jesus more than they follow the stories of the Old Testament.
However, Brethren are open and honest about the reality of a few subjects that the Amish would consider taboo — namely sexuality. The discussion and support of sexuality in a functioning family is an open conversation for Brethren, whereas it’s something to be swept under the rug for the Amish.
6. Mormons / Latter Day Saints
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have received several dozen comments and emails concerning this section of our blog post, some of which have been explicitly threatening in nature, concerning the brief discussion we provide about sex abuse cases in the Mormon church and the historical inclusion of polygamy in the Mormon belief system.
We will not, nor will we ever, remove references to certified historical instances of sexual abuse when they’re relevant to a topic, such as they are here. There is noteworthy overlap of Amish and Mormon stories that are emerging from victims, and they each have a definitive historical status of viewing women in a subservient position to men. (See the Mormon belief in polygamy, whether it’s modern or not.)
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This may sound like a strange one, but Amish values share a surprising amount of overlap with modern Mormons.
While the Amish don’t practice polygamy — while some Mormons may — they do treasure their families, have many children, and demand a straight-and-narrow lifestyle devoid of drugs and alcohol.
Amish communities may not always emphasize their stance on drugs and alcohol, but they’re generally frowned upon. On the flip side, most Amish can enjoy caffeine, while “hot beverages” such as coffee and tea are not allowed by Latter Day Saints.
In addition to sharing similar values, the Amish and Mormons share a fair amount of controversy as well.
The main controversy in these denominations is the treatment of women. The aforementioned polygamy is inherently sexist, and the Amish actively prevent women from taking positions of leadership in their communities.
Historically, there are also deep and troubling stories of sexual abuse that run underlie both faiths as well. NPR reported on an investigation into child sex abuse in the Amish sect as recently as January 2020, and there are an increasing number of lawsuits and support groups around the idea of sexual victimization in the Mormon Church.
This similarity is not necessarily a stated belief of either of these Christian denominations. Still, it’s noteworthy that both groups view women in a that capacity and share emerging stories of sexual abuse.
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