Socialism is an economic system where the means of production are seized and monopolized by the government without compensation to the builders of the capital, and where investments, production, distribution, income, prices, and economic justice are administered by a government nomenklatura that regulate the transfer of money, goods (including capital goods), and services primarily through taxation and regularized and institutionalized aggressive coercion.
As a political ideology based on the expropriation of wealth, socialism stresses the privileges of the nomenklatura over the rights of workers and earners. Many of the most notoriously oppressive dictatorships have been socialist, such as the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany. As an economic theory, socialism calls for redistribution of wealth, through taxation of private wealth coupled with "progressive" social policy or directly via nationalisation and public ownership of property without compensation to owners. Wage earners suffer under Socialism, as it is hard to get paid in a system that discourages private persons from accummulating income.
Although socialist ideas such as the provision of unemployment benefit, state pensions, universal healthcare, and state control of key industries have been common throughout the developed world in the modern era, the United States has tended to reject socialism as an ideological position. In other parts of the world, such as Europe, Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, there has generally been more explicit support for socialism as a doctrine, and socialist parties have been among the most successful political forces of the last 100 years.
While socialism has often been atheistic in character, and many leading socialists (most prominently Karl Marx) have been critical of the role of religion - and conservative religion in particular - which they criticize for lending support to an unjust social order, some Socialists have been Christians, and there has been considerable interplay between Christian and Socialist ideas. Christian socialists have noted that early Christian comunities, in particular, displayed certain traits, such as the holding of possessions in common, the rejection of conventional sexual mores and gender roles, the provision for communal education, etc., that coud be considered similar to socialism. See, for instance, Acts 2:44: "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, has responded to this,
- "the Marxian excerpt from a Christian Socialism is an experiment which is doomed to failure because it has denied itself the aid of the spiritual power which alone is capable of making Socialism a success. ….'Christianity', they say, 'is the opiate of the People'; and, in the Soviet Union… Christianity or of any other theistic religion have been debarred… from admission to membership of the All-Union Communist Party. In fact, Communism has been definitely and militantly anti-Christian.
Thus the campaign against Christianity which is to-day an integral part of the propaganda of Marxian Socialism is a challenge to the living generation of Christians …we latter-day Christians may still turn a Marxian attack upon Christianity to good account … a re-awakening of the Christian social conscience has been the one great positive practical achievement of Karl Marx" 
Karl Marx considered socialism to be a transitory stage between capitalism and communism. In his view, socialism is summed up by the expression: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." A major criticism of socialism is that it infringes individual rights in favour of the populace. In a very real sense, politics in the western world throughout the 20th century was shaped by the conflict between socialist and capitalist governmental policies.
Although socialist parties are common in Europe, the leading examples all currently embrace some free enterprise, individual property rights and certain other aspects of capitalism although leading European Socialists are very critical of America.
British socialism alleges to maintain benefits and incentives that existed in a free economy while promoting reforms intended to provide better working and living conditions for workers. The British government of 1945-1951 under Clement Atlee were stringent socialists who implemented the "nationalisation" of several industries. Nationalising the health care industry made it more accesible to all in theory, however the system has been plagued by long waiting lists and lack of modernization and improvements. Subsequently, the introduction of the NHS led to a sharp rise in life expectancy and a dramatic fall in infant deaths.[Citation Needed] As a result of these socialist elements, Britain maintained a healthy mixed economy, ensuring that the economy grew substantially[Citation Needed] while supporting through the welfare state to protect the poor.
The supposedly socialist Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, is an avowed Christian, who has responded to criticism of the UK's involvement in the Iraq war by claiming that only God could judge him for his actions. . In Britain, Catholics are discriminated against by being barred from holding certain offices associated with the post of Prime Minister. These offices can be renounced without any practical inhibition to the powers of the post, but Blair has never done so.
- Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Annex II to Vol. V, Part C (i) (c) 2, p. 585-586, Marxism, Socialism, and Christianity.