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……

Personal faith versus Public Religion

Where is the boundary drawn?

Do the public institutions of religion enhance or restrict the evolution and development of personal faith?

If a person becomes ‘enlightened’, do they really need the guidance and advice of clergy who carry their own opinionated dogma and experience? Can the clergy really provide an impartial view?

The hypocrisy of a cleric extolling the virtue of living a simplistic life, and assisting the poor and needy, and deriding selfishness, whilst living himself in grandiose surroundings grates against my craw, especially when I see the wealth that exists in the churches of the old religions.

Tele-evangelists don’t always seem to have a ‘good grasp’ either. They encourage their congregations to pray for a new car or for money for this or that desired possession. Is that the true purpose of becoming a spiritual person?  So as you can attain more material wealth, and then by supposedly guaranteeing your place in the eternal hereafter? Should their guidance for us be more of a ‘spiritual’ kind?

Where does caring, compassion and trying to be a better person fit in the prayers of material wealth?

Finding one’s inner strength and using that to better the conditions of one’s life and those around us, sits better with my values and what I view religion or faith to be. The dogma of God first, others second and me last does not always seem to universally apply to public religion.

Perhaps St Francis had the right path, or the Dalai lama?

Something to ponder about…..