Quick, what’s the fastest growing religion in the United States? The answer, of course, depends on how you define growth. Are we looking for sheer actual numbers here, or growth in terms of percentage? If we’re looking at the latter, smaller religions have an inherent advantage, in that it doesn’t take all that many new members to jack up the percentage in a hurry.
So going with that idea, take your best guess. Scientology is pretty small, right? But how many whack-a-loons can they possibly attract? The Christian Science group isn’t all that large, but then again, you don’t run into their congregations all that often.
Enough guesswork, let’s get straight down to business.
According to a new study from the Ohio State University, the fastest growing religion in America is the Amish. In fact, the numbers show that on average, a new Amish community is formed every 3.5 weeks in this country, and more than 60 percent of all existing Amish settlements have been founded since 1990.
This might seem surprising, since the Amish are nothing new. They’ve been around for quite a while, so what’s with the high percentage of new communities?
That’s explained by the religion’s growth. If you think about it for a second, when was the last time you heard of someone converting to Amish? Most people wouldn’t want to give up their technological livelihoods. So most all of this growth happens through the raising of large families and a large proportion of those offspring joining the religion when they come of age.
And when you have that many new members, they can’t all live under one roof, so they have to go out and form new, small communities.
In all, the recent census counts 251,000 Amish in the United States and Ontario, with 456 settlements – far above the 179 estimated in the 1990 census. It is predicted that this growth will result in more than a million Amish living in the U.S. by 2050, as they’re doubling their population every 21 to 22 years. That may seem like a lot, but it seems like an understatement to me when you consider that there are an additional 145,235 non-initiated children waiting in the ranks to officially join the church when they come of age.
So where are they all at?
You might think it’d be Pennsylvania, but the numbers show that Ohio has the most horses and buggies. The buckeye state has 60,233 Amish community members, barely edging out Pennsylvania, which has 59,078. Also, the most densely populated county is Holmes Country, also in Ohio, with a full 42 percent of its residents being Amish.
And they’re not done. Of the 54 settlements in Ohio, 34 have been founded since 1990, mostly in the Greater Holmes Country settlement, which spans six counties (Holmes, Wayne, Tuscarawas, Coshocton, Stark and Ashland).
With the growing numbers and finite amount of land, Joseph Donnermeyer – first author on the paper – predicts that more and more men will turn to woodworking and construction trades, which could affect land prices and potentially enhance local economies through the establishment of business startups.
I have no problem with that. Have you ever been to Amish country? There’s some good shopping and good food to be found.
There are certainly worse neighbors out there.