I'm not laughing at God. I'm laughing with God.
Years ago, a friend sent me a package of information about an eastern-derived religion he was getting into. In it, the guru stated that, "we are all just a dream of God." It really made me wonder what God ate before he went to bed.
God licenses our bad behavior as much as our good behavior. If a cosmic referee will straighten everything out when life is finally over, you can move less thoughtfully. If you believe in forgiveness, you can count on being forgiven. If you believe in wrath you can count on being punished. You might not enjoy being punished, but you can tell yourself that shafting someone here on Earth matters a little less if you will pay for it when you are judged.
If there is no cosmic referee, what you do now matters absolutely. You can't count on being able to make things right.
Ultimately, fear is the basis for all self restraint. So you may fear fire and brimstone, you may fear prison or execution or you may simply fear the weight of your conscience after causing someone else pain. Self restraint is often good, as long as it isn't crippling self doubt. Whatever mechanism helps you think about taking a little less and giving a little more is a good one. When a belief system gets drastically more complicated than that, the conflicts begin to pile up.
I believe that fear of external punishment cheapens the act of goodness. The promise of forgiveness also taints the choice to do good. It's still making a deal. I look for a more balanced good between the physical participants here and now. It's up to us to come up with a game any number can enjoy. It's up to us to find the balance. As the Rolling Stones said, you can't always get what you want. That's important to remember. It's also oft-repeated in many languages and cultures, yet forgotten or ignored.
Think how you'd feel growing up right now, or a few years from now. Have you done a good job? Have you given them reason for hope?