Australia, Community, History & Traditions

Quakers or Amish? They’re all the same, aren’t they?

Have you ever wondered  about:

the Quakers?

There seems to be so very few in this movement, more correctly called the Religious Society of Friends in Australia, so I wanted to know who they are and what they represented? Here is what I found:

Quakers are not Amish, Amish aren’t Quakers, Amish are usually Pennsylvania Dutch, and Pennsylvania Dutch can be Amish. Got it?


Quakers are people, following a Protestant pacifist religion, that emigrated to North America from England and the British isles, in the 18th century, seeking religious freedom.

Quakers are unusual among Christians in that they worship without any form of priest or pastor. They believe that anyone can communicate with God, hence meetings for Worship consists of sitting in silence together, with individuals speaking when they feel so moved.

Quakers are pacifists and believe in simplicity, humility and equality, so their places of worship  are quite plain.

They wear ordinary clothes, unlike the Amish. Quakers are indistinguishable (on the outside) from other people.

Still confused?

The following passage may clarify:

The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to descendants of German settlers of Pennsylvania (the German word for German is Deutsche, which is probably why others picked up the word Dutch). The Pennsylvania Dutch do have their own language — a derivation of German — but that language is virtually extinct at this point, and modern Pennsylvania Dutch are indistinguishable from other modern Americans. Pennsylvania Dutch are a variety of religions, including Lutheran, Mennonite, Baptist, Amish (yes, that’s a religion — more on that in a minute). The Pennsylvania Dutch are similar to any other ethnic group whose relatives came in the 18th century…They may have some lasting cultural traditions (certain foods, for instance), but they are in other ways much like any other Americans.

The Amish (at least the Old Order ones, which is who most people think of when they think of the Amish) do very much stand out from other ethnic and religious groups in the U.S. Amish is a Protestant religion (a particular denomination of Mennonite, actually), and most Amish are actually Pennsylvania Dutch — meaning (as you now know) they are descended from Pennsylvania Germans and spoke that particular dialect of German. What makes the Amish stand out is that the rules of their church prohibit many modern conveniences, including electricity and more modern technologies. They still drive horses and buggies (they will get in a car if necessary, but only if somebody else is driving); they wear old-fashioned dresses and overalls with bonnets and black hats; they value farm labor and de-emphasize education. They are very much an insular community, as marriage outside of the church is forbidden. Your child’s college roommate will most likely not be Amish, though there’s a chance he or she will be Pennsylvania Dutch — or Quaker, for that matter. Oh, and the Amish don’t like to have their pictures taken, so please don’t run up to them, mouth agape, snapping photos.


  • The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, wanted to break out of the English brand of Puritanism. From their foundation in the 1650s, the Quakers were persecuted in the British Isles and the New England colonies. The term “Quaker” stems from a patronizing jibe on the part of an English judge that the Friends “tremble at the word of God.” The Friends turned it around and started using the term themselves, although their formal name has always remained the same. Quaker core beliefs include “testifying” to four ideals in everyday life: pacifism, simplicity, equality and honesty.


  • The Mennonites are named for their founder Menno Simons. They evolved from the Anabaptist movement of Holland and Germany during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Despite all Mennonites taking their name from this one figure, from the very beginning of the Mennonite faith, the movement was split between Dutch and Swiss-German groups, and later fragmented further still. Mennonites are pacifists, and are practitioners of the 3-fold Believer’s Baptism: baptism by spirit, baptism by water and baptism by blood (martyrdom or ascetic lifestyle). Also, the Lord’s Supper (Communion) is understood as a memorial instead of as a sacrament.


  • The Amish are the heirs of Jacob Amman, a reformer who tried to convince the larger German Mennonite faith to embrace certain changes. Among other things, he wanted to strengthen the discipline of the church to include excommunication and ostracism. This lead to a severe split in the Swiss Mennonite community in particular. It is widely believed that the Amish are anti-technology or regard it as sinful, which is a gross over-simplification and largely untrue. Instead, they have adopted certain practices in keeping with their communitarian values and to shun people from outside their community. The attitude of different Amish communities towards modern devices can vary markedly.

Read more :


The Amish are characterized by their reluctance to adapt to the changes brought about by advances in modern technology. This continuing struggle against modernity can be traced back to their belief that one should live life in a simple manner. To better understand why this is so, one must understand the basic concepts of Amish belief. First is their belief in the rejection of Hochmut, which translates into what we call pride and arrogance. Secondly they give great importance to Gelassenheit and Demut. The former refers to submission and the latter pertains to humility. Gelassenheit is an expression of one’s reluctance to assert oneself and is a manifestation of the anti-individualist belief held by the Amish. This anti-individualism is a primary reason for the rejection of labor-saving technology by the Amish as to embrace new technology would make one less dependent on the community.

The Quakers, on the other hand, do not share this view, as they have a different set of beliefs. The Amish are among the most conservative religious groups out there, as can be seen by their banning of electricity, birth control, women wearing pants, and higher education. The Quakers are just the opposite, as most of them are liberals. The Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, believe that everyone has a direct connection with God. Most of them reject sacraments and religious symbolism. This belief also eliminates the need for clergy, as everyone is directly connected to God. They believe firmly in religious tolerance and they do not use the word ‘convert’; they prefer the word ‘convince’, since this eliminates the use of coercion that is implied by the former. They do not try to ‘save’ anyone. They believe that it is not enough for one to read scripture in order to be spiritual; one has to practise it.

Both these groups, though they differ in some key aspects, are united in their belief in non-violence. Even on the national level, these churches believe that any form of violence, including war, is going against Christian morality. Both groups are part of the Peace Churches.

Something to Ponder about……

9 thoughts on “Quakers or Amish? They’re all the same, aren’t they?”

  1. Interesting post. I have driven through Pennsylvania Dutch country many times. The Amish do live a very different lifestyle. They still travel the roads with a horse and buggy.

    In the U.S., there have been several “reality” shows dedicated to the Amish. One followed young people on their year of Rumspringa. There was one Mennonite among them on the t.v. show. Another show was called the Amish Mafia. There were Mennonites on that show, too. I don’t think the Amish people on that show were part of the Amish community and church, even though they dressed the part and lived in Lancaster County. They drove cars and didn’t seem like true pacifists.

    When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a Friends Meeting House for Quakers. It is the oldest one in use in Philly and the largest one in the world. I never visited it, although I walked past it almost every day.


    1. I went to reply to this comment, Robin, but lost parts of it, so forgive me if I repeat. Thank you for this informative comment. I do recall parts of that show and wondered about the show’s authenticity? I like the idea of the community, that is central to the Amish beliefs, but the ostracism seems cruel and contrary to pacifism. There have also been reports of Amish people doing it for the tourist dollar??? I do not know whether that is true, or not, but I do find the concept of a different religious concept dedicated to peace interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is surprising more religions aren’t dedicated tho peace. Although not in the Christian realm, I believe Buddhism is also dedicated to peace.


  2. Bloody fascinating post, Amanda ! – facts of which I was entirely unaware, having been so ignorant as to bundle them all together. Is my face red …?


    1. Relax, Margaret Rose, all of us here in the antipodes I am sure are much the same, and that is why I researched it. A distant family member is even a Mennonite in USA, but that didn’t help my prior ignorance.

      Liked by 1 person

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