Why do Amish leave? Ex-Amish answers

In my last post I answered a common question, "Why do Amish leave?"

As promised then, here are answers culled from "the horses' mouth" - the ex-Amish themselves. Some may surprise you.

  • Male - it may be because of the non-stop rules to conform . . . or be shunned by the community. For me it was because of a disagreement about doctrine. I was asked to take a hike, but not all were in agreement about that, I found out later.
  • From one who was Old Order, then New Order, and finally Beachy Order before leaving - I hope I can say this without sounding rude, because I don't mean to be. But, it's not a "choice" for them. 90% believe in Heaven and Hell. 90% also believe that they will go to hell if they leave. Because that's what they have been taught. For GENERATIONS. It’s bred into them. Preached into them. Beat into them. It’s a CULTURE. The ones who leave, make a CHOICE. The ones who stay? Not in my opinion. Less than 10% are there because they wanna be, they just don't wanna mess up their "hoping to make it to heaven" plan. Anybody that's been born and bred Amish, or anything close to it, knows what I'm talking about. 
    Mehl sin in hofa. (We are hoping.)
  • Female who left the Old Order Amish I left many years ago because my husband wanted to. However, looking back and knowing what I know now about God and His love for humanity, I know that Christianity is about freedom and being the person God created you to be. The Amish religion is all about control. I can't imagine not allowing my child to go to high school or college. There is no room for choice when one is Amish.

  • Female: -­­­­­­­­­ left because of too much friction in the church . . . being Amish was miserable in my opinion . . . not allowed to do almost nothing.

  • Male: - Amish are known to be nosy and to gossip endlessly. They seem to have leaders like any other cult does who dominate, and these so called leaders may pick and pick on certain members. One's status may determine how much one can get by with.

  • Male: - I know family members who seem to start a rumor and the gossip just escalates.
  • Female: Religious freedom, to be free from manmade laws, to be able to have an open relationship with Christ Jesus.
  • Female: - I know of some rapes that happen and the grandchildren are told "oh just be good to grandpa because grandma isn't feeling well right now." Or even the bishop says "I can't say anything about it because I am guilty of doing the same with my girls."
  • Female: - gossip. Very restrictive as in not very willing to maintain enough challenge for me to flex knowledge muscle (can't go back to school, can't practice many things I learned via books due to lack of money along with very little support from community).
  • Female: - Also they don't want you to read the Bible on your own. Listen to the preachers. They will tell you what they want you to know and how you should believe. If anyone becomes a true believer they are told they have a "strange belief" and it can't be tolerated in the Amish church. "I see you've been reading on your own", they say. They pick and choose what scriptures to use.
  • Male from Old Order Amish -  If you were told that living their lifestyle is the only way to heaven, would you stay? And if you'd talk about Jesus and be told you have to stop, would you stay? Everybody's story is different, but that's mine.
Emma (former Amish) & me at one of my speaking engagements
  • Female - For me personally, I felt like I was in bondage and could not get away from it. I love what I learned in the culture and I love my family. They treat me the same as the rest of the family most of the time. I started to be shunned from the Amish youth group for wanting to attend a Bible study. I tried to keep going back and no one would want to talk to me anymore. I don't like to put the Amish in a bad light. Most of them do not grasp the full concept of salvation by grace. It is a whole group of people that needs ministry.
  • English Female who joined the Amish then left: - I do agree with what most other people have said; A. it's not always as rosy as it looks from the outside, and B. as people grow spiritually or psychologically the narrow doctrine can become a bondage needed to be broken out from. * from a girl who joined the Amish from the outside but left after 15 yrs
Now, what do YOU think of these answers? Leave your comment below.

(C)Copyright, 2015. Brenda Nixon


  1. I cant say that Im really surprised by these answers.. I've heard tales of rape & other abuse that is tolerated by the Amish. They are highly insulated from the rest of the world so its not difficult to fathom.
    I love many things about the Amish.. especially the community structure... and many times in my young adult life I thought I would love to live among the Amish.. but after joining a church that I think is very much like the Amish (but not culture) it didnt take long for me to rebel against it and take the high road & the highway. There is no way that I could ever live under the thumb of a church. Some people are very conforming to patriarchy... I am not. I ask why, how, & have a very active spiritual life that doesnt always conform to the social norms.

    1. Thanks for reading and leaving your comments Kimberly. So you're an ask why, how person? So am I - guess it's the author in me. Glad you have an active spiritual life.

  2. I have friends that are Amish and others that used to be. How Christian is it to treat a friend or family member that has left with such contempt? "The buggies drive by but never pull in the driveway". You are invited to a Amish funeral, but when your Amish grandson gets married you were NOT invited. The Amish son came to visit his dying father , but after his death mom is NOT worthy of a visit because it was her fault, and her wickedness, that convinced dad to leave along with his nine siblings! That son was in the lot and is now the bishop. Of course he'd have to abide by the church rules seeing how he's now the leader of the flock. Your loyalty HAS to be with the church...not your heart. So, just best to write the family off. Besides, who really wants to hang out with a bunch of sinners who are going to hell! And just maybe if you're caught with the sinners, you might be under the threat of the bann.

    1. Sounds like you have many personal experiences & observations. Sadly, I know of these mixed messages, too. Wish those who romance & idolize the Amish would open their minds to accepting this side of the culture.

    2. Hi Brenda, Most likely you've read some of my comments on the Facebook Amish Q&A page and on Amish America. You are right about having several experiences with the Amish. I've had Amish friends since 1963 when they moved into my home town area, and attended public school at the time. Some of those friendships are still going on today. Around 1992 there was a sizable exodus out of the Amish community, and that was an eye opener on how cruel those peaceful gentle people could be. It was different having Amish friends that were now ex Amish! Many of the topics that were discussed were not ok being Amish, but now that they were out, an education was to be had. The story I posted about the mother of the Bishop is just one of the many sad ones that I've learned over the years. As you know too well, they can be cruel and judgmental, and on and on it goes. Put the coffee on and we'll have us a good long chat! Blessings from Wisc

  3. "Mehl sin in hofa. (We are hoping.)"

    That's a very strange form of Pennsylvania Dutch!

    A common form of this sentence would be something like:

    "Mir (or mer) sin am hoffe." In a more English spelling: "Mir sin um hoffa."

    In a very traditional form of Pennsylvania Dutch the "r"-sound is a alveolar tap. In a few places in Germany this "r"-sound became an "l"-sound in some positions. Is this the case in the form of Pennsylvania Dutch presented here?

    The word before "hoffe" should end with an "m"-sound. An "n"-sound at this position is very exceptional too.

    If the sentence "mehl sin in hofa" isn't just a messy spelling of "mer sin am hoffe", this would really be very interesting! Maybe is a very rare form of Swartzentruber Pennsylvania Dutch.

    1. Good observation Dan. Remember, there are varying dialects of Amish speak.
      Through the centuries, some have moved far from the PA Dutch and speak other ways. Since these are direct quotes, I want to respect the way they spell or say it. Perhaps in their settlement, Mehl sin in hofa is correct.

      Aside from the grammar, I think it's interesting the content of their reasons for leaving.

  4. I too have a friend who was allowed in the Amish community from the outside and has since left due to their restrictions and rules and double mindedness. She basically has nothing good to say of the Amish and sadly her husband was so hurt and disillusioned by their supposed faith he still refuses to go to church anywhere....

    1. Aww I'm sorry to learn that Janice. So many "outsiders" looking in on the Amish think it's just a simple, peaceful, fundamental Christian existence. While that may be true with some settlements, my experiences with those who've left has taught me there's as much complexity, disharmony, and impaired religious views as any tight-knit group or culture.
      I sure hope your friend's husband will not turn his back on God.