In the sixteenth century, people generally still believed that heaven was a place and that it had a specific direction—up in the sky. Many believed that Christ came down from heaven and ascended into it after his resurrection. Early modern Europe was thoroughly Christian despite the exaggerated claims by some twentieth-century scholars about vestigial paganism. People still point up to indicate God or roll their eyes to heaven, even though these are residual gestures. The “decline of heaven” was linked to the decline of hell and of the Devil, and these in turn were closely tied to the fading of the witch craze that arose in the 1500s and gradually died away by 1700. Physicalist dismissal of heaven had a number of weaknesses, assuming, without philosophical warrant, the superior reality of the physical to the spiritual.
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