Monday, 2 May 2011

Religious Groups in America - Amish (Mennonites)

Religion in America is evidently very important to the majority of the population. Religion plays a part in everyday life for many Americans, with multiple, recognisable "extreme" religious groups synonymous with the country. One such religious group is the Amish Mennonites. The Amish are now mainly situated in the north-east of the United States, notably in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and southern New York as shown by the population map above. You can see they are starting to spread westwards into Indiana, Illonois and Missouri.

The website (The Pennsylvania Dutch Country Welcome Center) examines the idea and views of the Amish and looks at how such a group can exist in today's modern world.

Mennonites (a group of which the Amish is are a part) are part of a Christian denomination, known as the Anabaptists ("re-baptisers.") They typically do not believe in traditional Christian practices (wearing wedding rings or taking oaths for example) but do believe in the literal translation of the Sermon on the Mount and the idea that baptism can only take place as an adult as one has to be able to understand what it means to be a Christian and provide their own declarations of faith.

The Amish are very family and community-orientated, believing that a large family is a gift from God. There seem two key concepts intrinsic to the Amish belief system - somewhat of a rejection of pride or arrogance and an importance weighted on calmness and placidity, better understood perhaps as "letting go" or "submission." This second idea links directly to the Amish's insistence to fight progress and resist modern technology. They reject any labour-savving technology which would potentially lead to less dependence on the community.

America is seen as a modern, progressive society - potentially the epitome of Western ideals and advances. The Amish shun such progression and therefore go against typically-American values surrounding individualism and advancement. It seems ironic therefore that their continued presence and relative success help define America as a land of extremes and reaffirm the positive sense that people do not have to fit in with an "ideal norm" to survive.

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