Yes. I said it. And, it's true (well, some Jesus. The liberal commie Jesus*). I also love Albus Dumbledore and would totally have a bromance with Batman and(or) Marcus Aurelius. How does the historicity of a character affect the emotions you have for them? If the person died before you were born, there's not much difference anyway, from a pragmatic standpoint. Oh, sure- you can say, "But he really did all these things! Isn't that dreamy?" But does that change anything? Are the struggles of Robin Hood against a corrupt government any less poignant than of George Washington risking everything to create a country dedicated to the free expression of religion? The obvious argument, "Well, Washington has a legacy. It's called America." is actually rather empty- after all, what, today, that makes up America, that directly affects your life, could honestly be attributed to him? Even the constitution has had to change a great deal in the past 200 years (17 amendments were done without any input from Washington). He's a great man, I'm told, but what if he really did pass the buck for cutting down the cherry tree? Would that make his accomplishments less? Again, I don't think so, but it's nice to believe, isn't it? That our president wouldn't lie even when he'd get in trouble for it. But does it affect our lives? I don't think it does. I don't care if Abraham Lincoln was born in a palace, a log cabin or 400 log cabins (points if you get the reference), it doesn't change how I live my life. What if it was really Garfield (James, not the fat orange tabby) that freed the slaves? Would it change your life? I might be surprised, what with the history lessons changing, but I'd still go to work the next morning, and life would continue. Slavery would not be re-established because Lincoln was discovered to have not abolished it.
Where am I going with all this? Well, to Jesus, of course. Who cares if he lived back then or not? Either He's God, and He'll make good on his word, or He won't. Regardless of your views on how inerrant the word of God is, the bible was written by men, copy-edited by men, revised and published and translated by men, each step requiring hundreds if not thousands of repeats.
To make things worse, any historical (as opposed to archaeological) evidence from that era is scarce at best- before the printing press, the written word just wasn't as common. We might think that a miracle worker would get more press, but obviously, he didn't- almost all of the evidence we have for his life comes 40 or more years after he died. The documentary "The God Who Wasn't There" lays out one side of the case very well. But there is other evidence which suggests He did exist, historically (granted, it's mostly the same evidence read in a slightly deeper voice). I personally, and most biblical scholars in general tend to find non-historic Christ a much more compelling argument- He's simply too poorly tied to any documented era- but there is plenty of legitimate, scientific wiggle room because there's not enough evidence to make a definitive call. We could get some, of course, and should always be willing to update our beliefs if more evidence comes in, but right now, I think it could still go either way.
But why does it matter? The teachings of Jesus, the life he led, the stories he told, are all good for instruction, for inspiration, even for salvation. If you really read the bible, at no point does it expect you to believe Jesus took human form- just that He was the Son of God.
What's the difference if everything recorded about Jesus came from one source or 50? Really? Despite the shame you might feel for being duped (just as I would in the case of Lincoln not presiding over the Civil War), does it change the way you're going to live your life? It's not going to change the great theologians papers. The papers of the late CS Lewis wouldn't need revision, except in one or two minor places. It would be an embarrassing blunder, but qualitatively not even a minor blow to the strength of either his arguments or his conviction. Is the story of the widow who gave her last 2 pennies any less relevant, today, because the original teller might have been some random, nameless Rabbi, perhaps inspired by god but not His son?
For more information, check out the books and documentaries by Robert Price, Richard Carrier et al.
I love Jesus. *The Jesus that believed in the redistribution of wealth, laid the groundwork for welfare, and made medical care free for everyone while still loving the essence of free market capitalism provided it was free of the stench of human greed, religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness? Yeah, that Jesus I can get behind. And for that, I don't care if he's real or not. It's more of an interesting factoid compared to the wealth of things I know about his character. Given his liberal leanings, and the Yahweh of the old testament's rather hard-line conservative ones, there's little doubt why Jesus had to die, whether it was just a story or an actual event.
I realized, shortly after posting this, that while I love the character of Jesus I should be clear that I have 6 metric craploads of 100% Grade A USDA Beef with the Bible, religion, and the more fundamentalist types of Christian. This is a science blog, and I'm not trying to jump into the atheist scene- so I'll shut up.